Of the OCC's 32 high school football programs, only six have had the same coach for the last 15 seasons or longer.

Two of those veterans, Olentangy Liberty's Steve Hale and Hilliard Davidson's Brian White, will renew old ties when their teams meet Friday, Sept. 14, on the Patriots' home field.

Considering the success each program has had in recent years, it may not be surprising that Hale and White have split their six meetings at their current schools, with Liberty winning the past two matchups.

Their connection goes back much further, though, when factoring in that White's only season as Groveport's coach was in 1998 before he left for Davidson and Hale took over for White and headed the Cruisers' program in 1999 and 2000.

When Hale was at Groveport, the Cruisers split their two matchups against White's Wildcats.

Hale has been Liberty's coach since its inception in 2003.

"We have a tremendous amount of respect for coach Hale and his staff, who show that you can do things the right way and still have great success playing at the highest level," White said.

While Hale's teams characteristically feature balanced offenses along with big, physical defenses, White's teams have their own distinctive traits as well.

"Brian's one of the best coaches in the state and he'll have them ready to face us," Hale said. "We've played them for several years in a row and study each other backwards and forwards. Against Davidson, it's just a physical battle, and whoever wins the battles up front wins the game."

Davidson has made 15 playoff appearances under White and is back on track after a 5-5 finish last season. The Wildcats beat Hilliard Bradley 17-10 on Sept. 7 to improve to 3-0 as their defense forced four turnovers.

Davidson employs a triple-option offense and attempted just five passes against the Jaguars. Running back Jordan Hicks had 17 carries for 32 yards and one touchdown and quarterback Christian Sweet rushed 14 times for 30 yards and added a touchdown pass.

Hicks has rushed for 272 yards and five touchdowns on the season.

Defensively, linemen Bobby Smith and Dylan Kokoska have led the way for the Wildcats, according to White.

"We're just happy to come away with a win and move to 3-0 on the season," White said. "Just to be able to compete with the likes of a Bradley team puts us ahead of where we were last season. Obviously, we need to continue to get better to compete with the teams that await us in future weeks. We've got to become more consistent in all phases of the game, but most especially on the offensive line and with our special teams play. Our linebackers have picked up where they left off last season in their leadership on defense."

Liberty followed back-to-back losses to begin the season with a 23-14 win over Marysville on Sept. 7 as senior quarterback Mitchell Okuley returned to action. He had been out with an injury since the first quarter of the Patriots' 17-0 loss to Pickerington North in the opener Aug. 24.

Okuley completed seven of 23 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown against the Monarchs, with Kyle Wilson having three catches for 67 yards and a touchdown and Aidan Kenley rushing 18 times for 63 yards and one score.

Liberty played without wide receiver Mitchell Kershner and defensive lineman Jamie Hessing because of injuries.

"We've had a weird run of injuries," Hale said. "We had some young kids play well (against Marysville) and Mitchell Okuley was able to play. We kept him in the pocket and he made plays for us.

"(Davidson) just looks very, very solid. They have some kids that have been playing for a couple years, so maybe they're a little ahead of the game compared with where they were last year."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek