The Hilliard Darby and Lancaster high school football teams have the same philosophy when they step onto the field.

The Hilliard Darby and Lancaster high school football teams have the same philosophy when they step onto the field.

Both the 13th-seeded Panthers and the fourth-seeded Golden Gales will be looking to run the ball effectively to keep the clock moving and keep the opposing offense off the field when they meet Saturday, Nov. 7, at Lancaster in the first round of the Division I, Region 2 playoffs.

"They are a very system-oriented team, and they have some tough kids," said Panthers coach John Santagata, whose team is 8-2. "They know what they are doing on offense and defense. They have been running the wing-T or their version of it for a long time."

Lancaster, which also is 8-2 and was ranked 10th in last week's state poll, is making its seventh playoff appearance under 18th-year coach Rob Carpenter and its 10th overall.

The Gales are led by senior fullback Ryan Fitchpatrick and sophomore running back Shea Goss. Over the past three games, Goss has rushed for 449 yards and six touchdowns on 45 carries and Fitchpatrick has run for 294 yards and four touchdowns on 41 carries.

Darby and Lancaster were rivals in the OCC-Cardinal Division from 2002-2007. The Panthers' only win during that six-year period came in the last meeting, 40-15 in 2007.

Darby, which is making its sixth playoff appearance and has a 3-5 postseason record, is coming off back-to-back losses after winning its first eight games. The Panthers lost OCC-Cardinal contests against Westerville Central (17-13 on Oct. 23) and Bradley (24-10 on Oct. 30) to close the regular season.

Darby and Bradley both finished 5-2 in the league to tie for third behind co-champions Central and Dublin Jerome (both 6-1).

"We have to have a very good week of practice, stay focused and zeroed in on Lancaster," Santagata said. "Mistakes can get you (in trouble) and we have to establish the run better than we did last week (against Bradley). You have to avoid the big plays defensively and try to clean things up on special teams."

Darby had season-lows in total yards (257) and yards rushing (166) against Bradley. Senior quarterback Nick Powers had 79 yards rushing on 21 carries and was 5-for-16 passing for 91 yards.

"We're fortunate enough to be in the playoffs, so we have to forget about the past and move forward," said Powers, who finished the regular season with 1,471 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns on 209 carries.

"We have a lot of work ahead of us, breaking down film and getting ready for Lancaster."

Sophomore running back Jake Schnieder has rushed for 264 yards and four touchdowns on 55 carries, and senior slotback Richie Palsgrove has 276 yards and one score on 59 carries.

Defensively for the Panthers, sophomore defensive back Jonte Peterson has three interceptions and senior linebacker Braeden Hook has two. Senior lineman Jake Harms leads the team with four sacks, senior linebacker Thomas Scholl has a team-high 86 tackles and senior linebacker Mason Schmeling has 78 tackles.

"We have to treat every game like it's our last because that's the case in the playoffs," Powers said. "Being a senior, we want to go out with good memories. Playoff football is a great feeling and we need to bounce back from those two losses."

The Darby-Lancaster winner faces fifth-seeded Cincinnati Elder or 12th-seeded Fairfield in a second-round game Nov. 14 at a neutral site to be determined.