The Westerville Central High School football team will try to avenge its only regular-season loss from a year ago when it visits New Albany on Friday, Sept. 5.
The Eagles defeated Central 57-50, but they almost failed to protect a 49-21 lead after three quarters.
The Warhawks went on to finish 10-2, losing to Austintown Fitch 40-24 in a Division I, Region 1 second-round playoff game. New Albany finished 11-2, losing to Zanesville 35-28 in the Division II, Region 5 final.
"I hope last year's game is motivation," Central coach John Magistro said. "It was our only (regular-season) loss. They're a good football program and you pretty much just want to beat a good football program."
Central opened Aug. 29 by winning 21-17 at DeSales. Benny Snell's 69-yard touchdown reception from Nate Jackowski with 8 minutes, 37 seconds remaining proved to be the decisive score.
Jackowski, who replaced 2014 graduate Jared Drake at quarterback, was 15-for-22 passing for 234 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 65 yards and a score.
Jackowski and Gavin Lyon were expected to contend for the starting job during the preseason, but Lyon has a hip injury and is expected to miss the early part of the season.
New Albany coach Pat Samanich said containing Jackowski, who also saw time at linebacker, will be a key for his team.
"Westerville Central is fast, they're athletic, they're well-coached," Samanich said. "Jackowski does a great job of running the offense. Their defensive front four sets the tone. They're very athletic everywhere else. They don't make big mistakes."
The Eagles opened with a wild game Aug. 28 at Reynoldsburg, defeating the Raiders 36-35 in two overtimes. Running back James Smith had 14 carries for 85 yards and two touchdowns, both of which came in the overtime periods.
Smith's 4-yard touchdown on the fourth play of the second overtime gave the Eagles a 36-29 lead.
"You usually see the biggest improvement from your own team between week one to week two," Samanich said. "We were only playing with three or four guys that had a lot of (varsity) experience. We lost a huge senior class last year, so we knew that we were going to make those young mistakes. That's just natural."
The Eagles should be aided by the return of senior running back Christo Semertsidis, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second half of a 38-20 win over Reynoldsburg in last year's opener.
Semertsidis had a 14-yard touchdown run in the opener this season.
Senior Jalen Ward has taken over at quarterback in place of 2014 graduate Tanner Cline, who threw five touchdown passes last year against Central. Ward also plays cornerback.
Also in last year's matchup, Drake passed for 308 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 95 yards and two scores.
"New Albany is a nice football team," Magistro said. "It's typical New Albany. They have a running game, they can hurt you with the pass, (they play) good defense. It's no different than the team they've had in the past."