Upper Arlington High School football coach Joel Cutler acknowledges a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2015 is a long shot.
If the Golden Bears' season ends Friday, Oct. 27, at home against Dublin Coffman, a share of the OCC-Central Division championship would be a nice consolation prize.
UA is 5-4 overall and 3-1 in the league, tied with Hilliard Davidson for second place behind Coffman (4-0). The Shamrocks are 7-2 overall and have won four consecutive games.
"Anybody around our programs knows what a big deal this game is anyway, let alone when there's something on the line," Cutler said. "We're glad we're in this position (to win the league). We're not mathematically eliminated (from the playoffs) at this point, but we just have to focus and win."
Coffman was projected to be fourth and UA 12th in the Division I, Region 2 computer ratings entering Week 10. The top eight teams make the playoffs, with the top four earning first-round home games.
The Bears have not won a league championship since 2008.
Coffman has the inside track on winning its first OCC-Central title since 2014 and making the playoffs for the eighth year in a row.
The third team in the title picture, Davidson, visits Westland on Oct. 27. The Cougars are 1-8 overall and 0-4 in the league.
UA is coming off a 24-19 win at Central Crossing on Oct. 20. That same night, the Shamrocks recorded their fifth shutout of the season with a 49-0 win over Westland.
"This is a good rivalry for us in that it's a league game and there always seems to be something on the line," Coffman coach Mark Crabtree said. "How our regular season goes usually seems to ride on the outcome of this game. That seems to be the case every year."
Coffman quarterback Marcus Ernst has completed 68 of 123 passes for 912 yards with five touchdowns and four interceptions. Cam Scott leads the running game with 747 yards and 13 touchdowns on 141 carries, and Gavin Sturdivant has 392 yards and five touchdowns on 68 carries.
Lineman Darius Cummings and linebacker Griffin Hoak lead the Shamrocks' defense.
"They're very good inside," Cutler said. "Hoak is strong at linebacker and their defensive line is very quick and strong. Their defensive play is about as good as it gets."
Bears quarterback Sammy Sass has completed 88 of 184 passes for 1,275 yards with 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Steven Bair (23 catches, 372 yards, 3 touchdowns) and Josh Rushin (23 catches, 370 yards, 4 TDs) are his top targets, while running back Avery Heath has 116 carries for 769 yards and five touchdowns.
"To me, they look like they've always looked," Crabtree said. "(Sass) has done a really good job at quarterback and Rushin is a big receiving threat. Their defense looks as solid as it always has."
UA leads the all-time series 12-9 but has lost three consecutive games to the Shamrocks, including 27-21 last year when Coffman scored the final 27 points of the game.
The past four meetings have been decided by an average of 4.3 points, and neither team has won by double digits since a 27-9 Bears win in 2010.