A pair of programs that don't have an abundance of playoff experience will meet Friday, Nov. 2, when the top-seeded Reynoldsburg High School football team plays host to eighth-seeded Toledo Start in a Division I, Region 2 first-round contest.
Don't expect the Raiders, though, to be overwhelmed in their third postseason appearance. The others came in 2001 and 2015.
"We've worked all summer for this and we're ready for the playoffs," junior defensive back Breyon Eddings said. "I think we've got a top defense in the state. We stay focused and do what we've got to do to succeed."
Eddings and Mershawn Rice both returned interceptions for touchdowns during a 28-7 victory over Lancaster on Oct. 25. The win locked up the top seed and a share of the OCC-Ohio Division championship with the Golden Gales.
The Raiders earned their only playoff win in 2001. They lost in the opening round in 2015.
Start's only previous postseason appearance came in 2015 when it lost to Westerville Central 49-30 in the first round in Division I, Region 1.
After going 5-5 in 2016, the Spartans finished 7-3 a year ago but were 10th in Region 2, two spots out of the playoffs.
This season, Start lost four of its first five games but won its last five and is 6-4. The Spartans have won 20 consecutive games in the Toledo City League.
In a 38-20 win over Toledo Woodward on Oct. 26, Caleb Coyne passed for 161 yards and three touchdowns and Juleeon Carter returned an interception 67 yards for a score to hold off a late rally attempt.
Legend Tucker rushed 19 times for 61 yards.
"Based on what we're seeing, they're very athletic, they've got some good size and they're well-coached," coach Buddy White said. "I've got a lot of respect for the coach and once you get to this level, the fact they got into the playoffs means they know how to win. We're going to have to prepare for them just like we're preparing for everybody else, by working hard and executing. We feel good about our chances, but we have to play."
Reynoldsburg's win over Lancaster gave the program a share of its first league title since 1993 as both teams went 4-1 in the OCC-Ohio. The Raiders are 9-1 overall.
The loss for the Gales also ended their playoff hopes in Division I, Region 3.
Lancaster was trailing 9-7 when it elected to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Reynoldsburg 6 late in the third quarter. The Raiders stopped running back Alex Widener a half yard short and two plays later Michael Whatley hit Rice for a 94-yard touchdown to give Reynoldsburg a 16-7 lead.
The Reynoldsburg-Start winner plays fourth-seeded Olentangy Liberty or fifth-seeded Gahanna on Nov. 9 in a regional semifinal.
"This means a lot not only for our players, but we have a lot of past players that were counting on us to get this done," White said.
"We've got to get more consistency with our offense. You can't just go along and expect big plays all the time. You have to execute, especially our run game. I was fairly pleased with our pass game, but we've got to work on our run game. We've got to deal with weather issues. We're very excited and we've worked hard for this."