Nate Hillerich is among the newcomers to the matchup between the Pickerington Central and North high school football teams, but the Panthers coach already has begun to experience the emotions involved with the rivalry.
"It's a huge week," Hillerich said. "Last week was one of the weeks where it's tough because (we were) a week away but we're playing a team that has a losing record (Grove City), and (North-Central game) is all everyone in the community is talking about. People are asking me, 'Are you guys ready for next week? When will it sell out?'"
On Friday, Oct. 13, North plays host to Central in a contest that ultimately could decide the OCC-Ohio Division championship and will give the winning team a major playoff boost.
Both teams are 6-1 overall and 2-0 in the league, which are the same records each held last season when Central beat North 17-14 in Week 8. The Tigers also beat the Panthers 38-24 in a Division I, Region 3 semifinal a year ago to improve to 9-3 all-time in the series, which dates to 2008.
Central has won the last four meetings.
"It's a big matchup with both teams being 6-1," Tigers linebacker and running back Grey Brancifort said. "When Central and North face each other, it's a rivalry of course, but it's different from the others because we grew up playing with those guys and you never want to lose to the people you know."
The teams are coming off much different performances in their Week 7 victories.
North led Grove City by 21 points after the first quarter and scored all of its points in a 49-7 win over the Dawgs in the first half.
Although running back Kevaughn Robinson has been out with an injury and is expected to miss the game against Central, Larry Martin rushed nine times for 83 yards and a touchdown against Grove City, and quarterback Jimmy Weirick was 10-for-12 passing for 116 yards and three touchdowns and had two carries for 52 yards and a score.
Ty Wiley had five receptions for 56 yards and two touchdowns against the Dawgs.
Central's most extensive experience against teams with strong passing attacks this season came during a 28-19 loss to Trotwood-Madison on Sept. 8 and in a 45-8 victory over Gahanna on Sept. 29.
In the Tigers' 14-13 win over Lancaster on Oct. 6, defensive back Terry Simuel had an interception as Central held the Golden Gales to 222 yards of offense but just 18 through the air.
Trotwood-Madison is 7-0 as is Centerville, which handed North its only loss, 27-26 on Sept. 8.
"The biggest thing with us is going to be playing controlled," Weirick said. "We know we're fast and can hit big plays, but establishing tempo and making them play into our game style will be huge for us. Defensive help has been unbelievable this year, and them doing that has helped our offense out tremendously in controlling games. We hope to play within ourselves and just let the game come to us, because we believe we can play with anybody."
In Central's win over Lancaster, quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw rushed for 91 yards and connected with running back Jamir Jackson and wide receiver Tristan Peppers for touchdown passes of 24 and 39 yards, respectively.
Tigers coach Jay Sharrett expects his team to be ready for the Panthers after surviving a close game against the Gales.
"Both of us were 6-1 last year (when we played), so it was a big game last year, too," Sharrett said. "There are a lot of playoff points on the line and it's an intra-district rivalry. That (game against Lancaster) was a brutal game. I was happy our defense was stout in the second half."