The Dublin Jerome and Thomas Worthington high school football teams both will be seeking a much-needed victory when they meet Friday, Sept. 28, at Jerome.
The Celtics enter the contest 1-4 overall and 0-2 in the OCC-Cardinal Division after losing to Hilliard Darby 14-7 on Sept. 21. That same night, the Cardinals fell to 2-3 overall and 1-1 in the league with a 52-15 loss to Hilliard Bradley.
Three of Jerome's losses have been by a combined 17 points.
"They don't give you style points for losing close ones," Celtics coach Bob Gecewich said. "Our system awards points for wins. It's not like the old college polls. You either win or you don't, and we're not winning. We've been in position to win those three games but have not made that extra play, that decisive, winning play."
In an effort to shake things up, Gecewich said he is making some personnel changes this week. He said Hayden Schell will move from quarterback to receiver and also could see time at running back, while Ryan Miller is expected to replace Schell at quarterback.
The Celtics also plan to use Ray Prochko at running back along with Ezra Strickland.
Schell is 62-for-124 passing for 764 yards with six touchdowns and six interceptions and has rushed for 241 yards and four touchdowns on 61 carries. Strickland has 223 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 34 carries and Prochko has 18 carries for 70 yards.
"We need to make sure Hayden continues to get his touches because he's such an integral part of our offense," Gecewich said. "The funny thing is that he got his first start against Thomas Worthington two years ago. We're also going to try to narrow the focus of what we do in order to help our offensive line."
Trey Ballengee (26 catches, 354 yards) and Ryan Keys (26 catches, 288 yards) are the Celtics' leading receivers, followed by Luke Martin (17 catches, 179 yards) and Andrew Brim (15 catches, 161 yards).
The Cardinals ended a 28-game league losing streak by beating Worthington Kilbourne 25-20 on Sept. 14, but took a step back against Bradley, the defending league champion.
"We were never in the game," Thomas coach Matt Zingery said. "Bradley is on another level. We're not to that tier yet. We're just trying to learn how to win as a program. But the good news with being such a young team is that the kids are resilient. It's easy for them to turn the page, put last week behind us and focus on this week. It's even easier when the majority of the kids didn't play well last week."
The Cardinals are led offensively by quarterback Charlie Rhoades, running back DiJahn Davis and receiver Habib Bundu.
Zingery said his team is in no position to look past anyone and vows that Jerome won't catch them off guard.
"We lost a close one to them last year (33-32) and they have to be one of the best 1-4 teams in the state," Zingery said. "They've played a tough schedule and have been in almost every game. We're not going to be fooled by their record."
Jerome's other close losses were to Pickerington North (35-28 on Aug. 31) and Dublin Scioto (17-14 on Sept. 14).
Gecewich noted the improvement he has seen from Thomas this season.
"(Thomas is) young and talented with some good veterans mixed in," Gecewich said. "I really like what they're doing right now. They have a spark in their program and their younger kids have had success at the lower levels and they will make their mark pretty soon."