Imagine being a member of the Hilliard Bradley High School football team this week.
The Jaguars are 9-1, coming within eight points of being perfect for the second consecutive regular season, and are riding a seven-game winning streak that includes a 49-0 victory over Delaware – a team fighting for a playoff berth – on Oct. 26.
As a reward, Bradley gets to face the defending Division I state champion, Pickerington Central, to open the postseason.
The Jaguars certainly know what to expect from Central, as the Tigers ended Bradley’s season a year ago in a Region 3 semifinal, and will be looking to avenge that 42-31 loss when they play host to the Tigers on Friday, Nov. 2.
This is what the postseason is all about.
Here are five things we expect heading into the first round of the playoffs:
1. The contest between Bradley and Central might best be described as a heavyweight matchup.
With a great linebacking corps and one of central Ohio’s best quarterbacks in Griffin Veil, Bradley provided another reminder this season that it’s here to stay as a central Ohio power.
The Jaguars, who are seeded third in Region 3, are averaging 42.4 points during their winning streak, with Veil having thrown for more than 2,300 yards, and they possess a decent running game led by Jack Richards.
Central, meanwhile, is what it’s always been under 16th-year coach Jay Sharrett: the area’s most consistently physical program.
The sixth-seeded Tigers are 8-2 and had a run of 12 consecutive league titles snapped, but to say that they’re not a state title contender would be inaccurate. Their losses have come by a total of four points.
2. The most intriguing playoff opener in Division I, Region 2 features fourth-seeded Olentangy Liberty at home against fifth-seeded Gahanna on Nov. 2.
Neither team had the regular season it was hoping for, with the Patriots entering the postseason at 6-4 and the Lions at 5-5.
Still, both teams have reason for optimism.
Liberty has made back-to-back postseason runs to state semifinals and put together a steady, bounce-back performance in a 42-0 victory over Westerville North on Oct. 26 after losing to Olentangy Orange 17-3 in Week 9.
Gahanna, meanwhile, has one of the area’s best defenses to go with an offensive weapon in running back Justus Harris.
3. Reynoldsburg and Hilliard Davidson will try to follow impressive regular seasons as No. 1 seeds.
Other than stumbling in Week 7 at Gahanna, Reynoldsburg, which is the top seed in Division I, Region 2, has reeled off one impressive win after another. The Raiders’ victories over Upper Arlington, Marion-Franklin, Pickerington North and Lancaster likely kept each of those opponents from making the postseason.
Davidson, the top seed in Division I, Region 3, also is 9-1 and continues to get the job done by controlling the flow of play and playing great defense.
4. Dublin Coffman, Eastmoor Academy, Hartley and Harvest Prep also have home-field advantages.
Coffman, whose only loss came against Davidson, is 9-1 and earned the No. 2 seed in Region 2. The Shamrocks will open the postseason Nov. 2 as host to seventh-seeded Westerville Central (5-5).
Hartley, which is 8-2 and the top seed in Division III, Region 11, will play host to Athens (9-1) in a first-round game Nov. 2. While the Hawks are in the postseason for the ninth year in a row, the Bulldogs are back in for the first time since 2014.
Also in Region 11, fourth-seeded Eastmoor plays host to fifth-seeded Hillsboro on Nov. 2 in a matchup of 9-1 teams.
In Division VII, Region 27, second-seeded Harvest Prep is 10-0 and will get a chance to bounce back from a first-round playoff loss a year ago when it plays host to seventh-seeded Franklin Furnace Green (8-2) on Nov. 3.
5. Other area teams looking to win on the road Nov. 2 are Olentangy Orange, Hilliard Darby, Walnut Ridge, Whitehall, Olentangy and Grandview.
In Division I, sixth-seeded Orange (7-3) travels to third-seeded Toledo Whitmer (8-2) in Region 2 and seventh-seeded Darby (8-2) visits second-seeded Clayton Northmont (9-1) in Region 3.
In Division II, eighth-seeded Walnut Ridge (9-1) travels to top-seeded Massillon Washington (10-0) and fifth-seeded Whitehall (9-1) visits fourth-seeded Dover (8-2) in Region 7, and eighth-seeded Olentangy (5-5) plays at top-seeded Cincinnati Winton Woods (9-1) in Region 8.
Grandview (7-3) earned the eighth seed in Division VI, Region 23 and travels to top-seeded Bainbridge Paint Valley (10-0).