There are several reasons why the Thomas Worthington and Worthington Kilbourne high school football teams consider their matchup on Friday, Sept. 14, to be an important one.
Sure, the host Wolves will enter the contest winless at 0-3 and the Cardinals are 1-2 after winning their opener.
But also consider the following:
*The game is the OCC-Cardinal Division opener for both teams;
*Kilbourne won last year's meeting 26-25 in overtime when the Wolves stopped senior running back DiJahn Davis short on a two-point conversion run;
*Thomas has lost 28 consecutive league contests, dating to Oct. 18, 2013, when it beat Central Crossing 43-6 in Week 8 in an OCC-Central game;
*This could mark the final "Wo-Town Showdown" for 13th-year Kilbourne coach Vince Trombetti;
*Thomas has not beaten Kilbourne since winning 21-20 in 2011.
"If you can't get up for this one, there's something wrong with you," Trombetti said. "They nearly got us last year and they know we're 0-3 and they're going to come in here sensing blood in the water. We were close to wins in the first two games and we had our chances against Groveport until the fourth quarter (of a 35-14 loss on Sept. 7). We just have to eliminate mistakes.
"(Thomas) has a strong, bullish runner in the Davis kid, who has a similar running style to that Groveport back (Ja'Shaun McGraw), who we struggled to tackle. They also have a strong quarterback (Charlie Rhoades) and can make plays in the passing game."
Thomas won its first three games last season before falling to Kilbourne en route to finishing 4-6. The Cardinals opened this season by defeating Canal Winchester 34-21 on Aug. 24, but then lost to Westerville North 35-30 on Aug. 31 and Westerville South 27-17 on Sept. 7.
"Last year, we started the season strong, but things went south from there, starting with the loss to Kilbourne," Thomas coach Matt Zingery said. "The difference this year is that we're not getting some bounces going our way. Without a few turnovers, we could be 2-1 or maybe 3-0. We were down 20-17 to North in the final four or five minutes and faced a fourth down on our own 25 and went for it. We rolled the dice, didn't get it and North tacked on a final touchdown.
"Kilbourne is similar to us in that they have a great running back (Elijah Young) and a solid quarterback (Grayson Timms). It's going to be a matter of who can win the battle on the line of scrimmage."
Against North, Rhoades was 14-for-25 passing for 315 yards and three touchdowns, Davis had 22 carries for 161 yards and Sheron Phipps had six receptions for 148 yards and a touchdown.
Zingery said the Cardinals placed a major emphasis during the preseason on snapping their losing streak in league play.
"Kilbourne has beaten us 11 times in the past 12 meetings, but we've really been looking hard at that (league) losing streak," he said. "We need to get that first one, to get over the hump, and then move forward. We're young and I think we're going to continue to get better all season, but a lot of these guys will be playing Kilbourne for the first time under the Friday night lights."
Trombetti has been thinking about stepping down as coach since his son, Jack, graduated in 2017 and has gone on to play at the University of Findlay. That has cut down his usual Saturday work with the Wolves as he travels to watch his son play.
"I wanted to come back this season because I really like our senior class," Trombetti said. "I was thinking maybe last year would be my last, but I wanted to see how much playing time Jack gets at Findlay. He's getting substantial time right now, so this could be it for me. I want to really enjoy watching Jack play the next two years and not feel guilty about it or ask the staff to do more work for me."
Kilbourne fell to Olentangy Orange 27-26 on Aug. 24 and Westerville South 27-21 in double overtime on Aug. 31.
Against Groveport, the Wolves trailed 14-7 and reached the Groveport 12-yard line when a fourth-down shot-gun snap went over Timms' head and the Cruisers took over on downs. Five plays later, Groveport scored on a 63-yard run. Timms, who was 15-for-25 passing for 115 yards, was intercepted two plays later and the Cruisers scored their second touchdown in an 18-second span on a 3-yard run on the final play of the third quarter.
Young had 82 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries against Groveport, but left the game in the fourth quarter with an injury. He was scheduled for X-rays and an MRI earlier this week and his status for this week's game was uncertain.