Holding the Division III district Offensive Player of the Year in check was the latest accomplishment by the Hartley High School football team's defense.
The Hawks' task will be much different this week, but it, too, figures to be a challenge.
Third-seeded Hartley will play fifth-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley in the Region 11 final Friday, Nov. 17, at White Field in Newark.
The Scotties may have the region's top dual-threat quarterback in Andrew Newsom, a 5-foot-10, 160-pound senior who has completed 123 of 201 passes for 1,832 yards with 26 touchdowns and five interceptions and has rushed 174 times for 960 yards and 20 scores.
According to coach Brad Burchfield, Tri-Valley is "as well-coached as we will ever play" under Justin Buttermore, a Hilliard Davidson assistant from 1998-2004 who has guided the Scotties to 10 playoff appearances in 13 seasons.
"They are like us," Burchfield said. "They're used to and expect to be practicing and playing this time of the year. Their quarterback is really good and, offensively, they put defenses in tough positions with offensive conflicts they create. Defensively, they're never out of position. Their kids play really hard. I can't emphasize enough how well-coached they are.
"We have to endure for 48 minutes. Every play is going to be critical. This is going to be a great, close game, exactly what you'd expect in a regional championship game between two teams that have won 11 games in a row."
Hartley and Tri-Valley both are 11-1, and both endured their only loss in the opening week of the season to Division III teams that remain alive in the playoffs. The Hawks opened Aug. 25 with a 35-16 loss to Toledo Central Catholic, which is playing for the Region 10 title, and Tri-Valley began its season Aug. 24 with a 21-13 loss to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, which is in the Region 9 final.
In regional semifinals Nov. 10, the Scotties edged top-seeded Bellefontaine 36-30 in overtime at Westerville Central and the Hawks defeated second-seeded Independence 44-14 at Hilliard Darby.
Hartley is playing for a regional title for the eighth consecutive season. The Hawks have advanced to at least a state semifinal in each of the past five seasons.
The Region 11 champion advances to a state semifinal Nov. 24. The other regional finals pit Trotwood-Madison against Dayton Chaminade Julienne (Region 12), Toledo Central Catholic against Bay Village Bay (Region 10) and St. Vincent-St. Mary against Canfield (Region 9).
In previous seasons, geography was the biggest factor in determining how the regional champions were paired in state semifinals.
"We know we have a tremendous challenge in Tri-Valley and we will have to play our best to win," said senior linebacker and offensive lineman Maximus Stienecker, who was named district Defensive Player of the Year. "We moved up a division and lost a lot of good players from last year, and some people thought we were going to have a down year, especially after our Week 1 loss, but we put our heads down and went to work, and now we have a chance to win our sixth straight regional championship."
The Hawks held Independence running back Demontae Taylor to 109 yards rushing. The senior, who was named district Offensive Player of the Year, came in averaging 217 yards rushing per game.
Independence finished 10-2.
"To hold a player like that 100 yards under his average, you've got to win up front," Stienecker said. "Our defensive line dominated the trenches. Nick Cone, Ethan Amaya and Anthony Maciejewski played really well."
Elijah Carter rushed for 127 yards and one touchdown and Alexander Blackmon ran for three touchdowns to lead the Hawks' offense.
"I was happy that we took away (Independence's run defense and running game) from the beginning," Burchfield said. "We knew it would be a big challenge for us, and our kids worked hard to prepare themselves to take this away."