Having won four of its first five games, the Canal Winchester High School football team is turning its attention toward pursuit of the OCC-Capital Division championship and a second consecutive playoff berth.
The Indians are fully aware that a win at New Albany on Friday, Sept. 28, in the league opener for both teams could go a long way toward achieving both goals.
Canal Winchester improved to 4-1 with a 28-13 win at Grove City on Sept. 21. That same night, New Albany scored 23 unanswered points in the middle quarters to beat Olentangy 30-18 and improve to 3-2.
"To be the champ, you have to beat the champ. They're the best program in this division; there's no arguing that, and to take another step for our own program, this is a big game," Indians coach Josh Stratton said. "(New Albany's) continuity on their coaching staff and what they do (on the field) is impressive. You can hear their run-pass calls down the street. They build their program to play in November, and that's the bottom line in the state of Ohio. That's the direction we are working toward."
New Albany has defeated Canal Winchester in their OCC-Capital opener each of the past two seasons, winning 23-3 last year and 38-7 in 2016, and has gone on to finish as Division II, Region 7 runner-up both years. The Eagles won the outright league championship two years ago and tied Big Walnut for first last year when both teams went 4-1.
The Indians and Franklin Heights tied for third in the league last year at 3-2.
Canal Winchester and New Albany also are vying for computer points in Region 7. The Indians unofficially were tied with Sparta Highland for the eighth and final playoff spot in the region in this week's computer rankings. The Eagles were projected to be 12th.
Against Grove City, Canal Winchester running back Stephan Byrd rushed for 154 yards on 33 carries, fellow back Darren Davis added touchdown runs of 7 and 4 yards and the defense added a touchdown on an interception return by Logan Beckwith that gave the Indians the lead for good at 14-13 in the third quarter.
Dorian Knox recovered a fumble on offense for another score.
New Albany running back Michiah Burton rushed for 166 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries to pace the Eagles past Olentangy. Wide receivers Brody Kidwell and Jack Scharfe each caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Luke Muter and Grant Rogers added a 44-yard field goal.
"It was big to gain momentum going into this game. We know how important it will be," New Albany coach Matthew Kidwell said. "Canal Winchester does a wonderful job up front on defense with their four-man front and, offensively, their freshman back (Byrd) and a lot of other guys are pretty tough to handle. The quarterback (Jack Beeler) is in his second year as a starter and he seems pretty comfortable in their system. Byrd is just very hard to tackle. He's young, but he doesn't look like a youngster on the field."