Although the Hartley High School football team will be facing a new opponent for the second consecutive week, some members of its roster have faced some of Liberty Union's players at the youth level.
If the Lions are to take advantage of that slight familiarity against the top-seeded Hawks in a Division V, Region 17 semifinal Saturday, Nov. 16, at Bloom-Carroll, they will need to come close to matching the performance by their defense during their playoff opener.
While Hartley scored 43 first-quarter points and routed Chillicothe Zane Trace 64-7 in its playoff opener Nov. 9, fifth-seeded Liberty Union scored two defensive touchdowns and forced six turnovers while winning 31-0 at fourth-seeded St. Clairsville.
The Hartley-Liberty Union winner will play second-seeded Martins Ferry or third-seeded Wheelersburg for a regional title Nov. 23 at a site to be determined.
"We know (Liberty Union has) a great tailback and a great running game," coach Brad Burchfield said. "We played them in the lower levels the last few years and it should be a good game. They're obviously well-coached and physical, and they won (a regional title) last year."
Hartley takes a 10-1 record into the matchup and Liberty Union is 9-2.
Last season, the Lions were state semifinalists in Division V and the Hawks were state semifinalists in Division IV.
Both teams have gotten it done this season with strong running games and efficient passing games.
Hartley senior quarterback Jared Brandewie has thrown for 1,255 yards and 12 touchdowns and Liberty Union senior Austin Vannatta has passed for more than 1,300 yards and nine scores.
The top player in the Lions' offense has been senior running back Jacob Basso, who rushed for 1,091 yards and had 19 catches for 341 yards with 18 total touchdowns during the regular season.
Hartley had nine players score touchdowns and finished with 434 yards of offense against eighth-seeded Zane Trace, which finished 5-6.
"Jacob Basso is a great running back for them," Burchfield said. "(Liberty Union is) not real big, but they play hard and they do a lot of blitzing on defense."