There is familiarity between the Pickerington North and Dublin Coffman high school football programs because they've met the past several seasons in scrimmages.

The heat, needless to say, will be turned up when the teams meet for the first time during the regular season Friday, Sept. 21, at North.

Both the Shamrocks and Panthers are coming off playoff seasons and enter the matchup with 4-0 records.

"It's going to be another big test for us and an indicator for how far we can go this year," Panthers senior linebacker Ben Johnson said. "We know they're a good team, and with us both being 4-0, it'll be a statement game. We're super excited for it."

North has been dominant the past two games, beating Olentangy Orange 42-7 on Sept. 7 and previously unbeaten Westerville Central 52-7 on Sept. 14.

In its past two games, Coffman routed Dublin Jerome 45-14 on Sept. 7 but had to rally from a 16-point deficit to beat Olentangy 22-16 on Sept. 14.

"Without a doubt, we're looking forward to matching up with Pickerington North," Shamrocks coach Mark Crabtree said. "It's an opportunity for our players to go out and compete, and it's a good matchup.

"We played like we were asleep in the first half (against Olentangy). We talked about it at halftime and were able to come back and play the way our players are capable of playing. You're not going to have it every single night, but you like to see (your team come back)."

A big part of Coffman's game plan likely will be to get the ball in the hands of Mike Drennen, a 5-foot-11, 200-pound junior standout athlete who has scholarship offers from a large number of Football Bowl Subdivision programs, including Ohio State, Michigan and Georgia.

Drennen has rushed for 313 yards and five touchdowns on 54 carries, has 12 receptions for 240 yards and two scores and also is dangerous on kickoff and punt returns.

Coffman senior quarterback Ethan Brown has thrown for 469 yards and two touchdowns and has rushed for 119 yards and three scores.

Running backs Bryce Hostetler, Moussa Diallo and Craig Smith and wide receivers Alex Dluzynski and Jameel Williamson are other skill position contributors.

Crabtree also has been pleased with an offensive line led by center Josh Pittro, tackle Zach Zinser and guard Eric Feng, all of whom are seniors.

North's strength on defense is a front seven that includes sophomore Jack Sawyer and senior Dante Reed on the line and senior Ben Johnson at linebacker.

Johnson is an Ohio University commit who has 9.5 tackles for loss and 42 total tackles, while Reed also has 9.5 tackles for loss. Sawyer, who already has received numerous offers, including one by Ohio State, has six tackles for loss.

"Our team is very excited to play a program like Pick North because of their consistent success on such a big stage," Hostetler said. "We have to be able to run the ball efficiently against North to have success. We have great respect for their defense and we know that we'll have to execute at a high level on the line in order to come out with a victory."

North may have central Ohio's best quarterback in senior Mike Lowery, who has completed 86 of 122 passes for 1,094 yards with 14 touchdowns and one interception.

Senior wide receiver Jaylon Baylor has 23 receptions for 266 yards and three touchdowns and junior wide receiver Chris Scott has 25 catches for 374 yards and four scores.

Sophomore Jordan Lowery, Mike Lowery's brother, also has been a key threat at wide receiver.

Sophomore Idris Lawrence and senior Larry Martin are the Panthers' top running backs.

Senior tight end Tyler Foster, an Ohio University commit, had four receptions for 83 yards and two touchdowns against Westerville Central.

"We feel good," North coach Nate Hillerich said. "We've gotten much better each week and feel like our offense is finally clicking the last two weeks, but our schedule is not getting easier. Each week we play a team that's better, and it's going to be an unbelievable test this week."

Coffman faced Mike Lowery each of the past two seasons when he was playing for Gahanna. The Shamrocks beat the Lions 31-13 in 2016 but lost to Gahanna 34-32 last season as Lowery threw for 279 yards and three touchdowns.

Against Olentangy, sophomore A.J. Kirk had an interception and the Shamrocks also recovered a fumble.

Senior Ryan Hamilton and junior Noah Smith are inside linebackers who have played well, according to Crabtree.

"We played (Lowery) the last two years when he was at Gahanna, so we know he's good and what he's capable of," Crabtree said. "He's clearly one of the best quarterbacks around. He throws a beautiful ball, but he's really accurate and accurate on the move. It's more than what can our defense do to stop them. It's everybody else (along with) our defense that has to answer."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

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