Among the aspects that has made the annual matchup between the DeSales and Watterson high school football teams one of central Ohio's best the past six decades is that the CCL title or a playoff berth often is on the line for one or both programs.
That won't be the case when the teams meet Friday, Oct. 27, at DeSales, but the Eagles and Stallions both expect an emotional contest considering it likely will be each team's final game of the season.
DeSales was projected to enter the game at No. 11 in the Division III, Region 11 computer ratings and needs to beat Watterson and get unlikely help from several others to reach the postseason for the fourth consecutive season. The top eight teams in the region qualify for the playoffs.
The Stallions are 5-4 overall and 1-1 in the CCL, and the Eagles are 2-7 and 1-1. Barring a major upset, Hartley will wrap up the outright CCL title Oct. 27 when it plays host to St. Charles. The Hawks are 8-1 overall and 2-0 in the league, whereas the Cardinals are 1-8 and 0-2.
"(We) just (have to) get back to work," DeSales coach Ryan Wiggins said. "Watterson is a huge game for both communities. It's a game we circled and they've circled. We've got one football game left, so we're going to get back to work and try to do everything we can to win that game."
Since Wiggins took over as coach in 2007, the Stallions have gone 10-3 against Watterson, including 2-1 in the postseason. DeSales has won four games in a row against the Eagles and five of the last six.
Watterson, whose last win in the series came in 2012 when it edged the Stallions 24-21 in three overtimes, leads the all-time series 35-25-1.
This year's matchup marks Brian Kennedy's first as head coach, but the 1992 Watterson graduate, who was on the Eagles' coaching staff from 2004-16, is more than familiar with his team's opportunity.
"This is 'The Game,' " Kennedy said. "For as long as I can remember growing up, and now for me as a coach, this is the best rivalry in central Ohio. I've seen enough of these games that I know you can throw the records out."
Watterson snapped a six-game losing streak with a 31-7 win over St. Charles on Oct. 13 and nearly upset Dublin Jerome before falling 28-27 on Oct. 20. The Celtics blocked an extra point with 4 minutes, 25 seconds to go and held on to keep their Division I, Region 2 playoff hopes alive.
Quarterback Cole Andrews completed 24 of 33 passes for 276 yards, Kyle Naderhoff rushed for three touchdowns and Nate Meyer had nine receptions for 106 yards to lead Watterson's offense. Cameron Headlee had 10.5 tackles to lead the defense.
"We played a really good game," Kennedy said. "It's tough when the game's decided by a blocked extra point, but that one play wasn't the reason we lost."
DeSales entered Week 6 likely needing to win three of its final four games to make the playoffs, but it lost to Hartley 23-21 on Oct. 13 and fell to Cincinnati Winton Woods 42-7 on Oct. 20 after defeating Trenton Edgewood 28-3 on Oct. 6.
The Stallions trailed Winton Woods 21-0 before quarterback Cole Silvestri scored on a 2-yard run late in the second quarter. The Warriors then pulled away in the second half, limiting DeSales to 7 yards passing and 90 total yards.
"We've played a tough schedule," Wiggins said. "We didn't win enough games to get in (to the playoffs). It looks like we'll have one more opportunity to play this year."