A pair of programs riding high from the east side of Columbus will match up in the second round of the Division III, Region 11 playoffs when the Hartley and Independence high school football teams meet Friday, Nov. 10, at Hilliard Darby.
The second-seeded 76ers opened the postseason with a 32-7 victory over seventh-seeded Jackson on Nov. 3 to improve to 10-1 and have won four games in a row since losing to Eastmoor Academy 39-22 on Oct. 6.
The third-seeded Hawks, who won the past two Division IV state titles, opened the postseason with a 62-21 win over sixth-seeded New Philadelphia on Nov. 3.
Hartley is 2-1 all-time against Independence and also takes a 10-1 record into the matchup. The Hawks have won 10 games in a row since opening with a 35-16 loss to Toledo Central Catholic on Aug. 25.
“Independence is playing with a ton of confidence,” coach Brad Burchfield said. “They’ve beaten some really good football teams in recent weeks. They understand how to beat good teams and win big games. Their tailback (Demontae Taylor) is a fantastic runner. He’s very strong and punishing, and very explosive as well. Their lineman (Chad Douglas) is one of the best linemen I’ve seen on tape in a long time. He’s an outstanding player.
“We’re looking forward to this game – the best of the City League versus the best of the Central Catholic League. It’s really an exciting matchup.”
In the win over New Philadelphia, Elijah Carter rushed for 184 yards and four touchdowns, three of which came in the first half. Alexander Blackmon also ran for two touchdowns.
The Hawks led 35-21 at halftime and pulled away in the second half.
“We felt great about our win over New Philadelphia,” Burchfield said. “It was a total team-dominating effort. We were very efficient on offense. A ton of players were able to contribute, and defensively we played really well. (We took) away their passing game, (which is) what they did best, and (we caused) several turnovers.”
In Independence’s victory over Jackson, Taylor ran for a 66-yard touchdown on a fake punt and threw a 49-yard touchdown to Daleron McCarrell as the 76ers built a 26-0 lead. Taylor finished with 238 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.
Quarterback Kionte Blow passed for 112 yards and a touchdown and ran for a score.
“Obviously, on paper, they’re the best team in our region, two-time state champions,” 76ers coach Maurice Douglas said.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us. Usually when you have a great program like that, you just move one piece in and one out every year.”