Billed as the central Ohio matchup of the year, the coaches for the Hilliard Bradley and Pickerington Central high school football teams expect the Division I, Region 3 semifinal to live up to its hype.
Second-seeded Bradley and third-seeded Central will meet Friday, Nov. 10, at DeSales.
The Jaguars, who are ranked fifth in the state and won the ThisWeek Super 7 poll, are 11-0 and are fresh off their first postseason victory, a 49-14 home win over seventh-seeded Kettering Fairmont on Nov. 3 in the opening round.
The Tigers, who are ranked eighth in the state and were runners-up in the Super 7 poll, are 10-1 after beating sixth-seeded Clayton Northmont 41-21 in the first round Nov. 3 at home. Central has won eight consecutive games since losing to Trotwood-Madison 28-19 on Sept. 8.
"They are as advertised," Central coach Jay Sharrett said of the Jaguars. "They have a highly explosive offense and a stout defense.
"Even though they score a lot of points, they don't seem to turn the ball over a lot. That's something you usually see in a high-powered offense like that, but they are disciplined and keep care of the ball."
Bradley coach Mike LoParo also expects the matchup to be a classic.
"I think there will be a really good crowd, that's for sure," he said. "You have two explosive offenses and two good defenses. It should be a great game."
Experience could be a factor. Central is in the playoffs for the 12th consecutive season and has reached at least a regional semifinal in 10 of those appearances. Bradley reached the playoffs for the first time last season, losing in the first round.
The Tigers depend on their ground attack, led by quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw. The sophomore has completed 72 of 133 passes for 1,223 yards with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions, but also leads the team with 863 yards rushing and 14 scores on 141 carries.
Junior Jamir Jackson has rushed for 697 yards and nine touchdowns on 122 carries and senior Jeremiah Wood has 230 yards and eight scores on 61 carries.
Senior tight end Trenton Gillison is the Tigers' top receiver with 15 catches for 162 yards and three touchdowns, and senior wide receiver Tristan Peppers has 322 yards and four scores on only 10 receptions.
"Offensively, they are more ground-and-pound than we are and they give you different looks to get you out of position," LoParo said. "Their quarterback both runs and throws the ball well. They are big up front -- much bigger than us - and they get the ball to their athletes."
Bradley's pass-oriented spread attack is led by three seniors in quarterback Josh Stewart and wide receivers Daevon Anderson and Kory Taylor. Stewart is 154-for-224 passing for 2,367 yards with 26 touchdowns and six interceptions and has rushed for 453 yards and eight touchdowns on 94 carries. Anderson has 61 receptions for 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns, and Taylor has 49 catches for 768 yards and seven scores.
The Jaguars, who are averaging 39.6 points, have a balanced running game featuring a pair of juniors in Grant Buehl (112 carries, 600 yards, 10 touchdowns) and Jack Richards (102 carries, 546 yards, 10 TDs).
"I don't think we can stop them (offensively), but we can try to contain them and try to take advantage of the situation when we do," Sharrett said. "They have a couple weapons at wide receiver and their quarterback makes great decisions. He's the reason they don't turn the ball over.
"They always know the distance to the first-down marker and they are sharp with the ball. That's why they're 11-0. When it's third-and-3, they run the perfect pattern for 4 yards to move the chains."
Like on offense, the Tigers look to confuse their opponents on defense.
"They give you multiple looks and they'll blitz you, too," LoParo said.
"The back seven will disguise what they are going to do until the last second and they do a lot of good things against you. They give you a lot to think about."
Sharrett said the Jaguars play a hard-nosed style of defense that has limited opponents throughout the season.
The semifinal winner plays top-seeded Centerville or fifth-seeded Pickerington North in the regional final Nov. 17.