For the second time since their rivalry began in 1995, the Dublin Scioto and Worthington Kilbourne high school football teams will face each other in the postseason.
The Wolves will play host to the Irish in a Division II, Region 5 first-round playoff game Friday, Nov. 8. The Battle of Hard Road trophy will not be at stake like it was when the teams played in the opening week of the season, but each team's season will be on the line.
Kilbourne, which improved to 9-1 overall and clinched the OCC-Capital Division title with a 28-7 home win over Olentangy Orange on Nov. 1 to finish 7-0 in the league, is seeded second in the region behind New Albany. Scioto, which beat Canal Winchester 41-20 on Nov. 1 at home to improve to 6-4 overall and finish 4-3 in the OCC-Cardinal, is seeded seventh.
The winner plays third-seeded Zanesville or sixth-seeded St. Charles in a regional semifinal Nov. 15 at a site to be determined.
"It's a bonus rivalry game that will have both communities buzzing and should be another tremendous game," Scioto coach Karl Johnson said. "The difference is the loser hands in their equipment for the year."
Kilbourne leads the all-time series 11-9 but hasn't beaten Scioto since 2009. The Irish have won the past four meetings, including Aug. 30 when they scored in the waning moments to pull out a 22-21 victory at home.
With 23.2 seconds left, running back Darius McDonald scored on an 8-yard pass from quarterback Nathan Densel on fourth-and-goal and defensive tackle Elijah Berry lined up at fullback and barreled into the end zone for the two-point conversion.
The score was set up by a 42-yard reception by McDonald to the Kilbourne 8-yard line.
"Our kids are extremely excited and it'll be tough to try to keep their emotions in check until Friday," said Kilbourne coach Vince Trombetti, whose team is making its first playoff appearance since 2008 and eighth overall. "We won the (OCC-Capital title) outright, qualified for the playoffs and have done everything we've wanted so far, except for one thing. It's not often you get a chance to correct a past mistake. It's a tremendous opportunity for us."
In the matchup earlier this year, Kilbourne led 14-0 after a 3-yard touchdown run by running back Justin Stoner and a 31-yard scoring run by slotback Seth Hill. Scioto tied the game at 14 in the second quarter with a 1-yard touchdown run by fullback Nick Conner and a 3-yard touchdown run by Berry. Both scores were set up by Kilbourne turnovers.
The Wolves regained the lead late in the second quarter with a 72-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Griffin Dahn to wide receiver Keaton Reinhart.
"They're probably ticked off because they feel we stole that one from them," said Johnson, whose team is making its second consecutive playoff appearance and eighth overall. "It's the only loss they have and it was a heck of a football game, but they rebounded strong."
The teams' first playoff meeting occurred in 2004. Kilbourne swept Scioto that year, winning 27-9 in week three of the regular season and 17-13 in a Division I, Region 3 semifinal. The Wolves went on to reach a state semifinal before losing to eventual state champion Cincinnati Colerain 34-3.
"We'd like to end their season, let them fume all during the offseason and then we'll play them in week one again next year," Trombetti said.
During the regular season, Scioto faced five teams that made the playoffs, going 2-3 against those opponents, and went 2-4 against teams with winning records. The Irish defeated Dublin Coffman 30-17 on Sept. 6. The Shamrocks qualified for the Division I, Region 2 playoffs.
"Those first two games went a long way toward us making the playoffs," Johnson said.
Kilbourne went 1-1 against teams that made the playoffs, with its win coming against New Albany, 14-12 on Oct. 25.
"The win over New Albany was impressive and they shut out Olentangy (33-0 on Oct. 18) the week before," Johnson said. "Olentangy is a good team and was a playoff contender that had a real versatile offense. To shut them out was very impressive."
Densel enters the postseason having completed 180 of 289 passes for 1,951 yards with 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions and having rushed for 343 yards and three scores on 103 carries.
McDonald leads the Irish in rushing with 469 yards and five touchdowns on 113 carries, and Conner has 43 carries for 165 yards and nine touchdowns.
Among the Irish's wide receivers is Cody Steffy, who has 30 catches for 254 yards.
Scioto's defense is led by Conner (116 tackles) and Spencer Talentino (72 tackles) at linebacker and Berry (10 sacks) on the line.
"That Conner kid plays like a man possessed out there," Trombetti said. "He just stands out on film. We're going to have to pay some attention to him or he's going to hurt us."
Dahn leads Kilbourne's offense, having completed 56 of 116 passes for 925 yards with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions and having rushed for 545 yards and five touchdowns on 120 carries.
Stoner, who has 922 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns on 158 carries, and Hill, who has rushed for 231 yards and three scores on 44 carries, lead the Wolves' ground attack, and Reinhart (13 catches, 267 yards, 2 TDs) and Hill (13 catches, 226 yards) are their leading receivers.
Among the key players on Kilbourne's defense are linebackers Josh Happ and Taylor Wilson and lineman Gavin Elifritz.