The disappointment and frustration felt by the Westerville Central High School football team after its loss to Westerville South 28-7 on Sept. 18 lasted all weekend.

The disappointment and frustration felt by the Westerville Central High School football team after its loss to Westerville South 28-7 on Sept. 18 lasted all weekend.

"We're a senior-heavy team and we wanted to go out there and beat South," Central quarterback Kyle Stephenson said.

When the players reported to practice two days later to begin preparations for Westerville North, the funk remained. The Warhawks coaches took notice.

"The coaches talked to us about North and told us we needed to keep our heads up," Stephenson said. "We did that and all (last week) we had great practices and it led to a big win."

Central beat North 27-7 last Friday to improve to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Cardinal entering Friday's home game against Marysville. It was the Warhawks' first conference win since beating Thomas Worthington 54-10 on Oct. 19, 2007.

"To be able to bounce back like that showed our team has a lot of maturity," Stephenson said.

Central was able to bounce back thanks to the legs of TaQwaun Council, who rushed for 191 yards and three touchdowns (5, 29, 30) on 31 carries against North. In all, the Warhawks ran for 265 yards.

In other weeks, Stephenson has dominated on the ground. Regardless of who gains the yards, Central's ball carriers received big holes to run through by their linemen.

"Our line stepped up and played amazing against North," Stephenson said. "Not only did TaQwaun play well, but our line was disciplined."

Those big holes may be reduced against Marysville. The Monarchs have lost four consecutive games since opening by beating Marion Harding 39-6. After losing to Groveport 55-34 on Sept. 4, Marysville's defense steadily improved as it has allowed 19.7 points per game the last three games.

"We were bad early," Marys-ville coach Jeff Gafford said. "We were young. We had to replace eight on defense. Now, we're making teams work by giving up fewer big plays. (Last) Friday against Olentangy, we allowed only three plays over 25 yards. The defense is getting better, we're allowing fewer big holes, squeezing the running lanes and tackling better."

Dylan Dearwester is in his second season starting at middle linebacker for the Monarchs. Gafford changed Marysville's defense this season to allow Dearwester more freedom sideline-to-sideline.

"Central is going to get its yards Friday," Gafford said. "You have got to make them drive the ball. When you get in third-and-long and fourth-and-long, you have to make them punt. We'll take a bend-but-not-break attitude and see what happens."

Last season, Central lost to Marysville 26-23 in overtime. Stephenson had zero rushing yards on 11 carries in the second half after finishing the first half with 125 on 12 carries.

"Their defense was good last year," Stephenson said. "Hopefully this year we'll be able to step it up and get the job done."

As improved as the Monarchs' defense has played in recent weeks, Marysville's offense has struggled. Injuries on its offensive line, to starting quarterback Luke Fleming and to starting running back Hayes Chrispin have resulted in a slowed output.

In five games, the Monarchs are averaging 21 points, but in the last three games, that productivity has dropped to 10.7.

Fleming returned to start at quarterback last Friday while Chrispin saw his first action of the season, but only at kicker.

"Our offensive line has not had the same five guys in any game," Gafford said. "We need to have the same lineup and then we can get more consistency and we'll have more weapons. We haven't approached the efficiency of last year even with eight starters back on offense. Having everyone back will make a big difference."

Next game

CENTRAL vs. MARYSVILLE

•When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

•Last meeting: 2008, Marysville 26-23 (OT)

•Marysville (1-4 overall, 0-2 in OCC-Cardinal) to date: Defeated Marion Harding 39-6; lost to Groveport 55-34; lost to Bellefontaine 21-19; lost to Olentangy Liberty 17-6; lost to Olentangy 21-7

•Central (3-2 overall, 1-1 in OCC-Cardinal) to date: Lost to Big Walnut 21-14; def. New Albany 34-28; def. Canal Winchester 17-13; lost to Westerville South 28-7; def. Westerville North 27-7

•Top Monarchs: Scott Arnold (OL/DL), Brendan Barrett (OL), Bryan Barrett (WR/DB), Chris Coburn (QB/RB), Dylan Dearwester (LB), Luke Fleming (QB) and Nate Weeks (FB)

•Top Warhawks: Tanner Ayle (DB), TaQwaun Council (RB), Luke Meissner (WR), Kyle Stephenson (QB) and Bobby Tucker (LB)