Indians (0-4, 0-1) Warhawks (3-1, 1-0)
Westerville Central High School football coach John Magistro recognized during Nick Richardson's sophomore season that the lineman had special talent.
Richardson, now a senior, has not disappointed, as he is considered one of the top left tackles in the area and has helped the Warhawks get out to a 3-1 start. At 6-foot-5 and 290 pounds, Richardson has mixed talent and size to reach his level of play.
"He's one of those guys where you just see it," Magistro said. "As sophomores they have it. He's worked on it to get better and he deserves everything he gets."
Richardson has received interest from several Division I schools and has made a verbal commitment to Kentucky, choosing the Wildcats over Vanderbilt.
"It was huge because it's a big distraction during the season so I wanted to get it out of the way," Richardson said of declaring early. "A bunch of Ohio guys are going to Kentucky and it is a good family atmosphere there."
Last season, Richardson was second-team all-OCC-Cardinal Division and honorable mention all-district in Division I.
Richardson also has seen time on the defensive line, but Magistro tries to limit those plays to keep him fresh. He leads an offensive line that must protect senior quarterback Jared Drake and provide running lanes in the Warhawks' spread offense.
The Warhawks are averaging 43.5 points.
"We've put up a lot of points," Richardson said. "Even though the defense gives up those points (33.5 per game), I still think our offense can handle it. Putting up points seems pretty easy for us even though we shoot ourselves in the foot on some drives."
Drake has completed 59 of 99 passes for 596 yards with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. He also has rushed for 241 yards and four touchdowns on 54 carries.
Running back Alex Fisher has rushed for 228 yards and four touchdowns on 43 carries.
Central has rushed for 828 yards and passed for 823.
The Warhawks rallied to defeat host Dublin Scioto 41-38 on Sept. 20 in their OCC-Cardinal opener.
Central trailed 13-0 in the first quarter and 30-17 in the third. Wide receiver Eldin Anu had a 90-yard kickoff return for a score to help lead the comeback.
Drake's 56-yard touchdown run gave the Warhawks a 41-30 lead in the fourth quarter.
"It all came down to the fundamentals of football," Magistro said. "There was nothing else. Mainly tackling was an issue. We need to improve on it if we want to be a better team.
"We had the heart to get back into it and I commend them for that, but we have to get better at fundamentals."
The Warhawks play host Friday, Sept. 27, to Canal Winchester, which fell to 0-4 overall with a 50-7 loss to Westerville South on Sept. 20 in its OCC-Cardinal debut. Last season, the Indians finished 9-3 overall, losing to Marion-Franklin 44-14 in a Division II regional semifinal, and won the MSL-Buckeye at 7-0.
The teams have met twice previously, with Central winning 17-13 in 2009 and Canal Winchester winning 21-3 in 2010.
Nick Hammond and William Totten have split quarterback duties for Canal Winchester in place of senior Zach Bontempo, who suffered a broken collarbone on the second series of the season.
"They usually have athletes because their track program is pretty good," Magistro said of Canal Winchester. "They're in a little bind because they lost their quarterback."