Pacers (3-2 overall, 1-1 in OCC-Capital) Eagles (5-0 overall, 2-0 in OCC-Capital)
Tanner Cline's statistics as quarterback of the New Albany High School football team note a consistency that has come in spurts.
Leading the offense for a team that was ranked second in Division II in last week's state poll, Cline is 34-for-50 passing for 559 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. At times, the senior has been the focal point of the Eagles' attack, but he's also happy to play a supporting role.
In a 57-50 win at Westerville Central on Sept. 6, Cline was 11-for-13 for 234 yards as the Eagles had to fend off a late comeback. Two weeks later in a 49-13 rout of Olentangy Orange, he was 1-for-2 for seven yards as the Eagles amassed 403 rushing yards.
"You know what you're going to get with him every single week. Tanner is calm, cool and collected," said guard Ryan Wilson, one of five seniors on the offensive line. "If we need him to throw 15 times, he can do that. If he just needs to manage the game and calm everybody down, he can do that."
Largely because former offensive coordinator Pat Samanich was promoted to head coach in the offseason, Cline downplayed the significance of any adjustment period taking over for 2013 graduate Darron Lee, who signed with Ohio State as a defensive back.
"I'm seeing the field a lot better than I was," said Cline, who attempted a season-high 16 passes in a 42-13 win at Franklin Heights on Sept. 27. "I like leading the team, getting everybody going. I love the fast tempo we've had and making sure we don't slip up."
Slipping up hasn't been a problem for New Albany, which rebounded from losing several key starters from a year ago to graduation by starting this season 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Capital Division.
The Eagles play host to Delaware on Friday, Oct. 4.
Cline has shown an ability to throw the deep ball and has not been called upon to anchor the running game as much as Lee.
Lee rushed for 737 yards and 10 touchdowns on 115 carries last year, and Cline so far has rushed for seven yards on only nine carries.
"He is a great leader and a great quarterback, but he's a better person," Samanich said, noting Cline's 4.2 GPA. "Not one time has he questioned what we need him to do. ... He's gotten better at being able to hit the receivers quick. Early on, his deep ball was struggling.
"He's made a conscious effort to work on his feet and be aggressive. It's made a world of difference."
Senior receiver Joe Siegenthaler usually is the beneficiary when New Albany decides to pass. He is one of the area's top targets with 18 catches for 373 yards and four touchdowns, and also has a team-high two interceptions as a defensive back.
"It wasn't hard to develop a connection with him," Siegenthaler said of Cline. "The sky's the limit for him as far as I'm concerned."
The offense hasn't lost a beat despite scattered injuries, including a nagging ankle problem for senior running back Leslie Anokye.
Senior Trey Quillin has 377 yards rushing and eight touchdowns on 52 carries, ahead of junior Hayden George's 293 yards and four touchdowns on 45 carries.
Anokye has seen occasional work, gaining 86 yards on 15 carries.
George had 154 yards and touchdowns of 10, 7 and 5 yards against Franklin Heights, and Quillin scored from 17 and 1 yard to stake the Eagles to a 35-0 halftime lead.
Fueled by its defense and special teams, Delaware beat Big Walnut 21-0 on Sept. 27 to improve to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Capital.
The Pacers made five interceptions and blocked a punt, and got rushing touchdowns from Ernest Bonsu (5 yards), Jante' Wright (19) and Theoun Sorn (2).
Delaware previously lost running back Anthony Hinton to a season-ending injury, and fullback Cody Wooten has missed several games with an injury.
"Every week, we have to go 1-0," Cline said. "Every week is a completely different game. We have to make sure we treat every game as its own individual season. We're going to get every team's best shot."