A year of firsts continues for the Olentangy Berlin High School football team.
This time, the Bears will play their first league contest, an OCC-Cardinal Division matchup Friday, Sept. 14, at unbeaten Delaware.
In terms of proximity, Delaware is the closest league rival to Berlin, with the schools about nine miles apart.
"Usually the geography of the schools determines who will be your rivals, but I'm not sure you could say we have any of those just yet," said coach Mark Nori, whose team is 1-2. "We don't play the other Olentangy schools this year, so I guess this might be a rival, but we're still trying to build the foundation and the culture for a program."
First-year Delaware coach Scott Wetzel hopes it will blossom into a rivalry.
"(Berlin is) probably about a 10-minute drive from the school," Wetzel said. "Once you leave the east side of Delaware, Berlin is right there."
Looking to change their culture, the Pacers have had a successful start under Wetzel. They already have as many wins as all of last season when they finished 3-7 overall and 1-5 in the OCC-Cardinal behind champion Hilliard Bradley (6-0).
"You can see that on film that they are doing great things," Nori said. "Their kids are in the right place at the right time, and that points back to coaching. They went through some hardships last year, but they have turned the corner and are moving onward and upward."
The Pacers' wins are over teams that have a combined 1-8 record through three weeks. They have victories over two winless teams in Buckeye Valley (24-7 on Aug. 24) and Westland (30-7 on Sept. 7) and defeated Marysville 17-16 in overtime Aug. 31.
Against Westland, Luke Jackson had three touchdowns as part of his 82 yards rushing, and Jahi Broussard-Nash added a 53-yard scoring run.
The Bears are coming off their second consecutive loss, a 32-14 setback against Toledo St. John's on Sept. 7.
Jake Moeller was 13-for-20 passing for 109 yards with a 7-yard touchdown to Liam McGreevey. Johnny Spinner rushed for 67 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries, and Corey Hill caught six passes for 64 yards.
"The ceiling is high for us, and we're headed in the right direction," Nori said. "You could see that in our grit."