The stakes will be raised a bit when the Hilliard Bradley and Darby high school football teams meet on Friday, Sept. 14.

Not only are the Jaguars and Panthers community rivals, but their matchup at Bradley also marks the start of OCC-Cardinal Division play.

Both teams enter the contest with a 2-1 record, with each having lost to the other Hilliard school, Davidson. Darby lost to the Wildcats 14-0 on Aug. 31 and Bradley fell to Davidson 17-10 on Sept. 7.

"It was our original rivalry since we played them before Davidson," Bradley coach Mike LoParo said of the matchup with Darby. "It's also a league game and one of our goals is come out at the end of season as a league champion.

"We're not focusing on a league title right now. We're looking to get better and get better every day. We're just looking at the next game and trying to go 1-0 every week."

The Panthers lead the series 4-3, having won the first four meetings The Jaguars, however, have won the past three contests, including 21-7 last season.

"Bradley has won the league the last couple years and going into league play is always important for us," Darby coach John Santagata said. "One of our goals is always to win league and the kids realize how important that is."

At first glance, it may seem as though the Bradley defense would have an easy week preparing for Darby after facing a similar running attack the previous week against Davidson. However, LoParo said the operative term is "similar."

"They both are similar, but (the Panthers) skin the cat a little differently than Davidson," he said. "Davidson runs more of a true-option base formation and Darby throws more, maybe 20 percent of the time. You have to figure out where their receivers are on the field.

"With Davidson, it's like, 'Here's what we do, try to stop us.' We have a little more to worry about with Darby."

The Panthers rebounded from their loss to Davidson by edging Lancaster 14-13 on Sept. 7.

Connor Jones rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries against the Golden Gales and quarterback Jack Stultz had 60 yards rushing and one score on 12 carries. Stultz also was 1-for-2 passing with a 5-yard completion to Griffin Hart.

"I was concerned from Week 1 to Week 2 that we needed to improve," Santagata said. "We made a ton mistakes in Week 1 and didn't improve in Week 2. We did improve in Week 3, but are we where we need to be? I don't think so."

Bradley lost to Davidson thanks in part to four turnovers and the awakening of a normally dormant Wildcats passing game. The Jaguars' defense bottled up Davidson's running game, holding the Wildcats to 104 yards rushing, but gave up 108 yards through the air, including Christian Sweet's 52-yard touchdown pass to C.W. Hess.

"You're not going to win too many games when you turn the ball over four times and have a punt blocked," said LoParo, whose team had a 16-game regular-season winning streak snapped. "We did well defensively, holding them to 212 yards, but we gave them great field position all night. Probably 75 percent of the game was played on our side of the 50."

Quarterback Griffin Veil was 12-for-30 passing with one touchdown and two interceptions against the Wildcats and rushed for 63 yards on 15 carries. Also for the Jaguars, Jack Richards had 86 yards rushing on 20 carries and Trey Warner had five receptions for 45 yards.

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