After playing an emotionally charged game against a crosstown rival and winning in overtime, the Hilliard Darby High School football team needed to turn its focus in a hurry to prepare for a home encounter with Westerville South on Friday, Sept. 8.
Both teams enter the contest at 1-1.
“When you see the film and see (running back and Ohio State commit) Jaelen Gill and all of the athletes South has, it’ll catch your eye in a hurry,” Darby coach John Santagata said. “We’ve got to work hard this week in practice and continue to get better. They have tremendous athletes on both sides of the ball. Gill is just one of many, but boy, he can score anytime he has the ball. It just takes a little crease and he’s gone.”
The Panthers are coming off a 9-6 win over Davidson on Sept. 1, while South is looking to rebound from a 34-0 loss to Gahanna that same night.
“We got outplayed and outcoached and we collectively did not play well in any phase of the game against a good Gahanna team,” first-year South coach Matthew Christ said. “It’s on me for not having them prepared. It’s obvious that we have to work on us and focus on what we’re doing.
“About the only real thing I know about Darby is that they’re typically happy with three or four yards per play and they have a strong defense. That means we’re going to have to battle their physical style on defense and on offense we have to find ways to get the ball to our playmakers in space where we can make things happen.”
South’s spread offense is directed by quarterback Max Barber. Other running backs are Taveon Falls and Tayon Howard, and key receivers are Michael McLemore and Michael Mansaray. Anthony Parham (6-foot-4, 310 pounds), Jude Pedrozo and Patrick Peterson anchor the line.
The Wildcats’ 4-2-5 defense is led by Gill at safety, Howard and Manny Powell at linebacker and Parham, Jeriel Adarquah and Antonio Smith on the line.
South trailed Gahanna 34-0 at halftime and was limited to 79 total yards, including just 46 yards rushing from Gill.
“We were down 27-0 in the blink of an eye,” Christ said. “We allowed a long kickoff return, made some turnovers, and then we didn’t make plays defensively.”
In the Wildcats’ 50-14 win over Dublin Scioto on Aug. 25, Gill rushed for 138 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries and caught a 32-yard touchdown pass.
“We can’t look at (South’s) score (against Gahanna) and learn anything from that because Gahanna hasn’t allowed a touchdown yet, so their defense must be exceptional,” Santagata said. “We’ve got to worry about what we’re doing, how we can improve. We struggled offensively against a really good Davidson defense and we’ve got to get back to fundamentals and tighten things up so we can be more productive. Without a doubt, we’ve got to improve offensively.”
Darby had 71 total yards against Davidson, but won when Clint Barnett scored on a 24-yard touchdown run on third-and-14 in overtime.
Santagata lauded the play of linebackers Tommy Clark and Nick Wile and defensive linemen Donta Ashcraft, Matt Leder and Bobbie Lewis as well as punter Aaron Hampshire, who pinned Davidson at its own 8-, 2- and 19-yard line in the second half.
“I thought our special teams played great,” Santagata said. “Davidson always has good special teams, but we had an advantage with some big plays this time. I think a lot of that credit goes to special teams coach Josh Bope. He had those guys on top of things.”