The contrast between the Hilliard Bradley and Davidson high school football programs is striking.
Davidson has a celebrated tradition, which includes 17 playoff appearances and two Division I state championships (2006 and ‘09). The latter state title coincided with the inaugural season of Bradley, which made its first playoff appearance a year ago.
The differences don’t stop there. Davidson features a clock-burning, option running game and the Jaguars employ a vertical spread offense that features three of the area’s top receivers.
However, according to both coaches, discipline will be a key component in their matchup Friday, Sept. 8, at Bradley.
“(The Wildcats) are still a storied program with a hall of fame coach (Brian White),” said Bradley coach Mike LoParo, whose team is 2-0 after defeating New Albany 42-6 on Sept. 1. “They make things as difficult as possible for you. (White) knows how to carve up defenses, and he’s great at in-game strategy.
“The key will be how we do on first down. We have to stay disciplined and do our jobs, especially on first down. If we allow them to keep the ball, they limit our possessions and it could be tough going.”
White said winning the line of scrimmage is imperative for both teams.
“They seem to be strong in the (defensive) front seven, and they showed that by stopping a team like New Albany, who likes to run the ball just like we do,” said White, whose team is 1-1 after losing to Darby 9-6 in overtime Sept. 1. “They might be more talented than we are, but that’s the case a lot of the time. When you play more talented teams, we’ll run the option and use the Navy philosophy, where they continue to run the triple-option no matter what. I’m not sure if we can do that, but that’s definitely part of the game plan.”
Running back Ben Wright leads Davidson with 160 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 41 carries. The senior was limited to 40 yards on 13 carries against Darby.
“First and foremost, we have to stop the run,” LoParo said. “And it doesn’t matter if you stop the run, they still run. Our kids have to go toe-to-toe with their talented line. Their backs always run downhill and run right over you. That’s what they do.”
Bradley scored 97 points in its first two games, thanks in part to three talented receivers in seniors Daevon Anderson (10 catches, 161 yards) and Kory Taylor (13 catches, 143 yards, 3 TDs) and junior Trey Warner (9 catches, 83 yards, 2 TDs). Senior quarterback Josh Stewart, a transfer from Worthington Kilbourne, has completed 32 of 49 passes for 350 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions.
Last season, Anderson had 15 receptions for 189 yards and four touchdowns as the Jaguars beat Davidson 31-28 to tie the series at 1. The Wildcats won the first meeting 20-0 in 2015.
“They are a tough matchup for us to slow down because of all the talent they have,” White said. “Last year, one kid in particular, Anderson, killed us. Taylor was injured last year and he’s back, and they have a transfer quarterback who is doing well for them.
“Warner might be overlooked because of Anderson and Taylor. Not a lot of people talk about him. But if you key on the other two, he can torch you.”
Davidson outgained Darby 137-71 in total yards, but White said his team made too many mistakes to win the game. The Wildcats lost one fumble, which set up Darby’s field goal.
“Our offense let us down, the kicking game let us down, but we played great defense,” White said. “There are three phases of the game, and when you get beat in two of them, you’ll lose the game.
“The No. 1 indicator in a game is turnovers, and we had one and they didn’t. That was the difference.”
LoParo expects the Wildcats to be hyper-focused when they take the field for their second intra-district game in as many weeks.
“They are going to be extremely motivated,” he said. “It’s Hilliard vs. Hilliard. I can’t say it’s a rivalry yet because we’re still the new kids on the block, but it’s always extremely intense.”