Worthington Kilbourne High School football coach Vince Trombetti barely had begun his postgame speech after a 33-0 win over visiting Olentangy on Oct. 18 when he turned to what already was on his players' minds.
"You sent the message loud and clear that we are ready to play for a league championship," Trombetti said. "This is the next step up the mountain."
"This" is a showdown Friday, Oct. 25, between Kilbourne, which has won seven consecutive games after a season-opening 22-21 loss to Dublin Scioto, and undefeated and host New Albany. The winner will have sole possession of first place in the OCC-Capital Division with one game remaining, and the game also will factor into playoff positioning in Division II, Region 5.
Both teams are 5-0 in the OCC-Capital. New Albany, the four-time defending league champion, is 8-0 overall.
"We knew we had a special group of seniors this year and I kind of figured in the back of my mind that if things went the way I thought they could go, we would have a shot at getting in the playoffs and a shot at a league championship," Trombetti said. "New Albany is very good. They're doing their thing and running that wing-T with a lot of success. From what I've seen, they're very impressive."
New Albany, which was No. 1 in last week's Division II state poll but needed a late touchdown to edge winless Big Walnut 13-10 on Oct. 18, was projected to be third in Region 5 this week, one spot ahead of Kilbourne. The top eight teams make the playoffs and the top four play host to first-round games.
Kilbourne is seeking its first
postseason berth since 2008 and eighth in the program's 23-season history.
Hampered by three lost fumbles against Big Walnut, New Albany scored fewer than 31 points for only the second time this season. Senior receiver/defensive back Joe Siegenthaler had a 90-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, but the Eagles trailed for much of the second half before senior running back Leslie Anokye scored the winning touchdown on a 17-yard run with 3 minutes, 28 seconds to play.
"We had plans to control the clock and slow the game down, but you can't turn the ball over three times," New Albany coach Pat Samanich said. "To win with that kind of performance is very rare. We're going to make sure this week that we learned our lesson."
Anokye has played sparingly because of a nagging ankle injury, paving the way for an array of running backs to amass 2,463 yards on the ground. The Eagles are averaging 35.6 points and allowing 17.
Led by junior quarterback Griffin Dahn and senior running backs Seth Hill and Justin Stoner, Kilbourne is scoring 36.1 points on average from its triple-option offense and giving up just 11.1.
Senior running back/defensive back Chandler Bridges caught a touchdown pass and returned an interception 62 yards for a touchdown to spark the Wolves against Olentangy.
"Dahn's a big, 6-(foot-) 4 kid who throws a nice ball," Samanich said. "We're going to have to know our assignments and not let the big play happen."
Davidson set to battle Thomas
Davidson coach Brian White believes that his team will be facing a dangerous opponent when it travels to Thomas Worthington on Friday, Oct. 25, for an OCC-Central Division game.
The Cardinals ended a two-game losing streak and improved to 4-4 overall and 2-3 in the league with a 43-6 win over Central Crossing on Oct. 18.
Thomas, which is aiming for its first winning season since 1999, has a balanced offense led by running back Tony Harvard, who has rushed for 1,153 yards and 15 touchdowns on 184 carries, and quarterback Danny Gordon, who has completed 88 of 168 passes for 1,267 yards with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions.
"Thomas has a tremendous running back. We know him real well," White said of Harvard.
"We're going to be at their place on that (field) turf, which we played on down at Beavercreek (in a 35-7 win on Sept. 13). ... Our kids will welcome that opportunity to get out of the mud a little bit. (The Cardinals) have a lot of kids back from last year."
Davidson rallied in the second half to defeat Olentangy Liberty 28-7 on Oct. 18 to improve to 8-0 and 5-0.
The Wildcats are first in the ThisWeek Super 7 poll and were ranked seventh in the Division I state poll last week.
Davidson's option attack has been led by running back D.D. Clark, who has rushed for 901 yards and nine touchdowns on 143 carries. Running backs Phillipie Motley (342 yards, 3 TDs) and Markus Bailey (272 yards, 8 TDs) also have been key contributors to the Wildcats' ground game.
"This game will be our most challenging of the season," Thomas coach Scott Gordon said.
"Davidson is again an outstanding football team (that) is very well coached. They do a great job of executing their philosophy and embody the team concept. They love to capitalize on teams trying to do something different in order to beat them. This usually works against teams as they get away from what they do best."