The Westerville South High School football team will have the opportunity to gain some measure of revenge when it travels to Hilliard Darby on Friday, Oct. 11, for an OCC-Cardinal Division game.
Not only did the Panthers beat the Wildcats 28-14 during the regular season a year ago, ultimately costing South a share of the league title, but Darby beat the Wildcats 31-10 in the first round of the Division I playoffs.
South coach Rocky Pentello's focus isn't on last season, but on ending a two-game losing streak. The Wildcats lost to Hilliard Bradley 52-48 on Sept. 27 and Dublin Scioto 31-24 in overtime Oct. 4 to drop to 3-3 overall and 1-2 in the OCC-Cardinal.
Meanwhile, the Panthers have remained hot, routing Canal Winchester 44-0 on Oct. 4 to extend a four-game winning streak and improve to 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Cardinal.
"The biggest thing for us right now is we need to make plays when the game is on the line to get ourselves a win," Pentello said. "We've been in a position to win each of our last two games, but we haven't made the plays we needed to make to finish those games."
South, which employs a spread offense, is averaging 33.5 points.
Quarterback Timmy Bates has completed 79 of 144 passes for 1,144 yards with nine touchdowns and nine interceptions to lead the Wildcats. Running back Darien Miller has rushed for 857 yards and 15 touchdowns on 141 carries and wide receiver Torrodd Carter has 41 receptions for 679 yards and six touchdowns.
Darby is allowing only eight points per game. Its 4-3 defense is led by linebackers Trevor Parker (41 tackles) and Ben Radcliff (37 tackles) and defensive back Devon Rogers (29 tackles).
"Their athletes can do amazing things with the football and they have the ability to score very quickly," Darby coach John Santagata said of South's offense.
"One of the keys for us is to rally to the ball and make tackles in space to make sure they don't take a run or a short pass and break a big play."
Pentello said his defense must stay disciplined against Darby's spread-option offense. The Panthers are averaging 29.3 points.
Quarterback Nate Green has rushed for 394 yards and five touchdowns on 88 carries and is 30-for-47 passing for 449 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions to lead Darby.
Fullback Lorenzo McLaurin has rushed for 399 yards and six touchdowns on 90 carries, and slotback Jacob Stacy has rushed for 193 yards and five scores on 33 carries.
South is allowing an average of 24.7 points, but its defense, which is led by lineman Curtis Mitchell, free safety Trey Harden and middle linebacker Kamaree Walden, was effective in containing triple-option offenses in wins over Groveport (48-20 on Aug. 30) and Grove City (17-14 on Sept. 13).
"Hilliard Darby is big and they run their offense really well," Pentello said. "Their quarterback and linemen are real good, so our defense has to keep all of their options covered because they are opportunistic when you make a mistake."