The Dublin Scioto High School football team has possession of the Battle of Hard Road trophy, but Worthington Kilbourne owns bragging rights given the outcome of the rivals' most recent matchup.
The Wolves defeated the Irish 38-3 in the first round of the Division II, Region 5 playoffs last season after Scioto had earned the coveted chunk of asphalt 10 weeks earlier by rallying past Kilbourne 22-21 in the season opener.
The trophy will be on the line Friday, Aug. 29, when the Wolves play host to the Irish to open the season. Kilbourne leads the all-time series 12-9 but had lost four games in a row to Scioto before the playoff victory.
"We know they're really gunning for us this year and they'll be sky high," Kilbourne coach Vince Trombetti said. "We've heard just how angry and upset they are about the playoff game."
In last year's opener, Scioto scored on an 8-yard pass from quarterback Nathan Densel to running back Darius McDonald on fourth-and-goal with 23.2 seconds left and defensive tackle Elijah Berry lined up at fullback and barreled into the end zone for the two-point conversion.
The Wolves' defense dominated the rematch, holding the Irish to 73 total yards and intercepting Densel five times, returning two for touchdowns. Densel completed only five of 23 passes for 19 yards.
Kilbourne advanced to a regional semifinal, where it lost to Zanesville 36-0 to finish 10-2. Scioto, which hadn't lost to the Wolves since 2009, finished 6-5.
"We've been sitting back, stewing and waiting for this week since (week) 11 last year," Scioto coach Karl Johnson said. "It definitely motivates you when you lose to your rival at any point, but it's even more disappointing to lose to your rival in a playoff game. But these are new teams with new goals and new people in key positions."
Opening the season with a rivalry game makes players work a little harder in the preseason.
"There's no easing into a season when your rival is the first game," Trombetti said. "There is a sense of urgency. Ideally, you'd like to get your young guys some action Friday nights under the lights before they take the field for the first time and play in a game of this magnitude. But it's the same on both sides."
Densel, a senior, completed 184 of 312 passes for 1,969 yards with 12 touchdowns and 14 interceptions and rushed for 418 yards and four touchdowns on 121 carries last year. The Irish lost both McDonald and Berry to graduation.
Scioto's 4-4 defense will be led by 6-foot-3, 225-pound senior linebacker Nick Conner, an Ohio State recruit who had 129 tackles and seven sacks last season. Another key returnee on defense is senior lineman Brennen Sawicki (6-2, 270), who had 49 tackles and two sacks a year ago.
Conner was sidelined for much of the preseason with a shoulder injury and, entering the week, his status for the opener was unknown, Johnson said.
Kilbourne's option offense will be led by senior quarterback Griffin Dahn, who rushed for 545 yards and five touchdowns on 120 carries and passed for 925 yards and 10 scores on 56-for-116 passing last year.
Dahn's primary target could turn out to be 6-7 junior wide receiver Dakota Holtzclaw.
"We're going to sneak 12 guys in on defense and stack two corners on each other's shoulders to cover him," Johnson said, jokingly. "He looks real good."
Isaiah Young is the Wolves' most experienced running back, having rushed for 260 yards and two touchdowns on 45 carries last year as a sophomore.