When they were in seventh grade, seniors on the Olentangy and Olentangy Orange high school football teams were on the same sideline.

At that time, there was no Orange High School; the split in programs did not come until a year later. The division has brought about a natural rivalry that will be renewed Friday, Aug. 26, when the teams meet at Olentangy.

"Olentangy is the biggest game of the season," said Orange senior Bill McCague, a 6-foot-3, 260-pound guard who was first-team all-OCC-Capital Division and special mention all-district in Division II last season. "In the seventh grade, we were out practicing with those guys and then we were moved over here to Orange after redistricting. We have been rivals from then on."

The teams have played twice. Orange won 27-7 in 2009 and Olentangy won 27-6 last season.

"It's always a toss-up when your opener is against a rival like that," Orange coach Brian Cross said. "We want to keep mistakes to a minimum. Last year, we made mistakes and they took advantage of every one of them."

Olentangy coach Ed Terwilliger is familiar with Orange, especially senior running back Brandon Schoen. The 5-11, 190-pounder rushed for 742 yards in 111 carries with 10 touchdowns last season and also had six punt returns for 147 yards and two touchdowns.

"They have one of the better backs in the area in Brandon Schoen, who is the brother of (2007 Olentangy graduate) Anthony Korpieski," Terwilliger said. "I remember watching him at youth camps and knew how good of a player he was going to be."

The Braves, who finished 6-4 last season, have two Division I college recruits in linebacker Joshua Perry (6-4, 231 pounds), who has made a verbal commitment to Ohio State, and offensive tackle Kenton Playko (6-6, 284), who verbally committed to Northwestern.

McCague has played with and against Perry, so he knows what to expect lining up against him.

"Josh is so fast, so you have to attack him," McCague said. "Josh also is a pretty smart guy, so you have to go at him. If you're going to get in a running battle with him, you'll lose. He has a long stride and he's tough to catch."

The Pioneers, who also finished 6-4 last year, return Schoen in the wing-T attack and four linemen in senior tight end Taylor Hardy (6-3, 215), McCague (6-3, 260), junior guard Cole Snowden (6-2, 240) and junior center Spencer Wilson (6-2, 265).

Orange also returns junior quarterback Kofi Hill, a 6-3, 210-pounder who started last season when 2011 graduate Jared Leet was out three games with a concussion. Hill threw for 216 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.

"They have a good running back and quarterback and their line is better than it was a year ago," Olentangy senior safety Will Brett said. "They run the wing-T, which makes it harder to see who has the ball. You have to do your job and make sure you know who has the ball."

The Pioneers have six starters back in their 4-2-5 defensive alignment in Schoen and senior Deyshon Hill (5-8, 160) in the secondary, senior Jon Peddicord (6-1, 235) at linebacker and senior linemen Doug Ganim (6-1, 260), Hardy and McCague.

The Braves feature an I-formation running attack, but lost leading rusher William Greathouse (804 yards, 14 touchdowns on 184 carries) to graduation. Derek Rogers (5-6, 205) ran for 278 yards and a touchdown on 54 carries and Perry rushed for 383 yards on 63 carries last season.

Playko, senior center Brandon Owens (6-4, 240) and senior guard Bryan Young (6-2, 288) are returning starters on the offensive line.

"(The Braves) looked good in their first scrimmage and they should be a good football team," Cross said.

Defensively, the Braves return seven starters: senior linemen Alex Steinmetz (5-11, 232) and Eric Price (6-2, 221), linebackers Perry and junior Griffin Binkley (5-11, 169) and Will Brett (5-11, 182), senior Zach Padovan (5-6, 165) and junior Christian Brett (6-0, 167) in the secondary.

"(Perry) only played outside linebacker in their first scrimmage," Cross said. "If he plays both ways, it will give us a chance to wear him down a little bit on both sides of the ball.