One team accustomed to playoff success and another that is learning about it will face off Friday, Nov. 10, when the New Albany High School football team takes on Walnut Ridge in a Division II, Region 7 semifinal at Westerville South.
On paper, the fifth-seeded Eagles -- who are in the playoffs for the eighth time in 13 years and trying to win their first regional championship since 2012 -- might be the underdog against the top-seeded Scots, who are coming off their first playoff win in 15 years.
"It's easy to see why they are the No. 1 team in the region," New Albany coach Pat Samanich said. "I'm impressed with how well they work within their system. We're going to have to be patient with our play-calling and win the line of scrimmage. We're pretty glad to still be working in Week 12."
New Albany is 7-4 after a 42-35 win at fourth-seeded Whitehall in a first-round game Nov. 3.
Brode White scored the winning touchdown on a fumble recovery in the end zone with 58.1 seconds to play. Michiah Burton rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries, and two of Luke Muter's three catches from quarterback Jalin Jackson were for touchdowns.
Walnut Ridge is 9-1, coming off a 27-14 win over visiting and eighth-seeded Canal Winchester on Nov. 3. Wide receiver Calvin Dawson caught six passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns, and linebacker Julius Stringer returned an interception 18 yards for a touchdown.
According to Samanich, this will be the first meeting between the schools.
"(Scots quarterback) Isaiah Murphy has a strong arm. He can move around and run if he has to, but he throws a heck of a ball and has a lot of good receivers to work with," Samanich said. "They'll run a 3-4 defense, but they can also go into a 5-3. Their linebackers and safeties come downhill at you."
The Scots, who are in the playoffs for the first time since 2009, had not won a playoff game since 2002.
"We have a lot of athletes and an offensive line that can dominate," Walnut Ridge coach Byron Mattox said. "I told our team (after the win over Canal Winchester) that I thought this was the first time we put all three phases together -- offense, defense and special teams. We made plays in every phase. We usually have a letdown somewhere even though we have a good record."
Mattox was impressed by New Albany's defense, which despite giving up 447 yards against Whitehall features a first-team all-OCC-Capital Division defensive lineman in Will King and has forced 18 turnovers this year with one touchdown and one safety.
"New Albany is going to run to the ball. They force you to play assignment football. They'll mix in enough passes to keep you honest," Mattox said. "Defensively, they are fast and physical. We have to be sound defensively and take care of the football. They have been here before and that experience is huge. But our guys aren't phased by much, so I expect a very physical contest."
The winner plays second-seeded Massillon Washington or sixth-seeded Ashland in the regional final Nov. 17 at a neutral site to be determined.