Having gone winless against their biggest rivals the past two weeks, the Olentangy and Westerville North high school football teams enter their OCC-Buckeye Division meeting Friday, Oct. 20, trying to right their respective ships.
At 5-3 overall and 1-2 in the league, the visiting Braves are trying to solidify their standing in the Division I, Region 2 playoff race. The Warriors are 2-6 overall and 0-3 in the OCC-Buckeye and looking to snap a four-game losing streak.
Despite outgaining Westerville South 322-239 on Oct. 13, the Warriors committed four turnovers and lost 33-30.
That same night, Olentangy squandered a 14-0 lead by allowing 21 points in the second quarter of a 28-17 loss to Olentangy Liberty. It was the second consecutive week in which the Braves lost a big lead against a rival, as they led Olentangy Orange 21-3 in the first half Oct. 6 only to fall 30-28.
"They're pretty much in the same boat we are," North coach Scott Wetzel said.
Olentangy has lost four consecutive games to the Patriots and Pioneers, following a stretch in which it won 11 of 12 against its sister schools. Still, the Braves were projected to be sixth this week in Region 2 as the top eight teams make the playoffs.
"That stings," Braves coach Mark Solis said of the rivalry losses. "It's frustrating in that we've gotten off to great starts and just haven't been able to finish. We haven't done well tackling. I like how we've played offensively, but we haven't been good on third-down either way (2-for-13 on Oct. 13 while Liberty was 7-for-12). We've been beaten up the last two games, but we have the talent to do better."
Braves quarterback Riley Bruening has completed 105 of 160 passes for 1,257 yards with 13 touchdowns and four interceptions and has rushed for 493 yards and three touchdowns on 102 carries. That is second only to Ali Iverson's 518 yards rushing and seven touchdowns on 122 carries.
Caden Kaiser has caught 34 passes for 634 yards and six touchdowns.
"(Bruening) plays well and is patient with his receivers," Wetzel said. "They run a 4-3 defense and sometimes a 3-4. They'll blitz and bring people. The twin brothers (linemen Jacob and Zach Slade, both Michigan State commits) stand out right away. The problem is if you double-team them that leaves someone else free to cause you problems."
North's Bodi Bien rushed for 183 yards and two touchdowns against South, raising his season totals to 712 yards and four touchdowns on 134 carries. Rondale Smith has rushed for 316 yards and five touchdowns on 83 carries, and Reno Godfrey has completed 37 of 85 passes for 438 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.