In the hopes his team would find itself in its current situation, New Albany High School football coach Mark Mueller beefed up the Eagles' preseason scrimmage schedule by adding Beechcroft.

In the hopes his team would find itself in its current situation, New Albany High School football coach Mark Mueller beefed up the Eagles' preseason scrimmage schedule by adding Beechcroft.

"We wanted to see an athletic team and get some better competition," said Mueller, whose team formerly scrimmaged Whetstone. "The past few years, our scrimmages haven't been against real high-caliber teams. To get better, we thought we had to see better teams."

The score didn't matter when the Eagles and Cougars met in August, but it will Friday, Nov. 2, when fourth-seeded New Albany plays host to fifth-seeded Beechcroft in a Division II, Region 7 first-round playoff game.

New Albany enters with an eight-game winning streak after losing its first two games. The Eagles completed a 7-0 league season Oct. 26 by defeating Mount Vernon 38-14, clinching their fourth consecutive OCC-Capital Division championship. Junior running back Leslie Anokye ran for 144 yards and touchdowns of 88 and 2 yards on seven carries, and senior running back Alan Watson added 104 yards, including a 38-yard touchdown run, on 10 carries.

Guided by senior quarterback Maurice Hale, Beechcroft -- which is 8-1 overall and won the City League-North at 7-0 -- generally runs a spread offense and passes about 60 percent of the time, Mueller said.

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Hale has passed for more than 1,600 yards and rushed for more than 1,200, presenting a formidable challenge for a defense that has allowed 11.3 points the past six weeks.

"He's just athletic," Mueller said. "He can beat you with the run and the pass, and he has a big offensive line in front of him."

Hale's leading receivers are senior Khaleed Franklin, who finished the regular season with 10 touchdowns, and senior Darius Ford.

In last week's 41-0 win over Northland that clinched the City-North title for the Cougars, Hale threw touchdown passes of 31 and 29 yards to Franklin and ran for touchdowns of 4 and 15 yards. Franklin also returned an interception for a touchdown, and junior running back/linebacker Adonis Davis returned a fumble for a score.

Beechcroft coach Bruce Ward is concerned with both the Eagles' offense and a defense led by Ohio State recruit Darron Lee, a defensive back and the team's quarterback. New Albany hasn't had a passing yard the past two games, rushing for 326 yards in a 34-7 win at Watkins Memorial on Oct. 19 and 422 against Mount Vernon.

"Since (August) we've kept tabs on them," Ward said. "I watched their game against Olentangy (a 33-14 New Albany win Oct. 4) and they're looking way better than they did earlier in the year. We've got our work cut out for us."

The winner plays top-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley or eighth-seeded New Carlisle Tecumseh in a regional semifinal Nov. 9.