The Hilliard Darby High School football team played hard for all 48 minutes of its 38-14 win at Thomas Worthington on Oct. 5.
Coach John Santagata wants to see that same effort Friday, Oct. 12, when the Panthers play host to Worthington Kilbourne in an OCC-Cardinal Division contest.
"I think the boys responded well to the constant reminders we gave them during practices leading into the (Thomas) game," said Santagata, whose team is 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the league. "It was nothing like the way we played in the first half against (Olentangy) Berlin (in a 24-21 win on Sept. 28). We didn't have to rally because we were ready to go from the opening kickoff thanks to all of us harping on that."
Santagata believes the first half against Berlin -- a first-year program that has won only one of its first seven games -- served as a wakeup call for his team. The Panthers trailed 21-7 at halftime before outscoring the Bears 17-0 in the second half.
In Kilbourne, Darby will be facing a third consecutive struggling opponent. The Wolves are 1-6 overall and 1-3 in the OCC-Cardinal following a 28-17 loss to Dublin Scioto on Oct. 5. Their lone win came against Berlin, 31-13 on Sept. 21.
Thomas fell to 2-5 overall and 1-3 in the league with the loss to Darby.
The Panthers were projected to be ninth in this week's Division I, Region 3 computer ratings. The top eight teams in each region advance to the playoffs.
Darby closes the regular season with games against Delaware on Oct. 19 and Scioto on Oct. 26. Both teams currently are 5-2.
"There are no such things as 'trap games' when you focus and prepare for one game at a time," Santagata said. "We're not good enough to look past anyone and I think the boys learned that. Besides, Kilbourne looked real good against Scioto last week. They're well coached. Vince (Trombetti) is a tremendous coach who everyone respects and they're sound defensively. Kilbourne always has sound special teams and Vince is so detail-oriented.
"I think they have a very good running back (Terrique Gray), a big, lean offensive line, a few standouts on the defensive line (Kaleb Dave and Josh Carter) and a very solid linebacker (Nick Streets)."
Gray had 146 yards rushing on 33 carries against Scioto, which trailed the Wolves 17-14 in the fourth quarter.
Against Thomas, the Panthers rushed for 462 yards. Connor Jones had 221 yards rushing and three touchdowns and Evan Grose ran for 118 yards and a touchdown.
"Those guys ran hard and, obviously, our offensive line played extremely well," Santagata said. "Michael Cornathan and Seth Schmidt had great games up front and (receiver) Griffin Hart did a great job blocking on the edges and downfield. Eric Williams barely came off the field and had a strong game at running back, defensive back and on the punt return and kickoff return teams.
"Defensively, Nick Wile has been having an outstanding season at linebacker. Against Thomas, (linebacker) Geno Sekura and (cornerback) Jaden Jones had good games and (linemen) Blayne Barnes and Charlie Freewalt also stood out."