Neither Westerville North High School football coach Rodger Elander nor his Westerville South counterpart, Rocky Pentello, are spending much time devising motivational speeches before their annual rivalry game Friday, Nov. 1, at North.
A Warriors win would give them a final record of 4-6, their most victories since going 5-5 in 2005 - the last year they defeated the Wildcats.
South is hoping for a second consecutive strong defensive effort after ending a four-game losing streak in which it allowed an average of 47.3 points and fell out of league championship and postseason contention.
North enters the game at 3-6 overall and 1-5 in the OCC-Cardinal Division. South is 4-5 overall and 2-4 in the league.
"This is the kind of game your kids get up for very easily," Elander said. "Some other weeks, you wonder how you will motivate your guys and you have to make sure they'll be focused. Not this week."
Recent games in the rivalry haven't been close. South has won six in a row over North, including 52-15 last year. In the four meetings since the Wildcats' 30-24 double-overtime win over the Warriors in 2008, they have outscored North 197-35.
North broke a six-game losing streak by edging host Canal Winchester 30-28 on Oct. 25. Junior Jake Hinz rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, senior Andy Struttmann had 100 yards on 14 carries, senior John Taylor had 90 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries and the defense allowed only 142 yards. Canal Winchester gained decent field position on long kick returns and converting on third-and-14 and fourth-and-7 in the second half.
South's offense, which is led by quarterback Timmy Bates, is averaging 30.4 points. In a 21-0 win over Dublin Jerome on Oct. 26, Bates threw touchdown passes to Abu Daramy, Josh Wilson and Torrodd Carter, the latter two of which came in a 14-point fourth quarter to break the game open.
"Our defense has to figure out ways to get off the field," Elander said. "If we can't stop South, we're going to have a long night."
Other offensive threats for the Wildcats include running back Darien Miller, who has 1,148 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns on 199 carries, and tight end Darryl Long, a Kentucky recruit.
South's defense, which is led by end Curtis Mitchell, free safety Trey Harden and middle linebacker Kamaree Walden, came up with its best effort of the season last week, limiting Jerome to 94 total yards.
"I think the key was that they stepped up and played with some fire," Pentello said. "They'd been embarrassed against (Westerville) Central (in a 54-35 loss Oct. 17) and I think they took it personally. The whole unit played well. I was very pleased with them."