When the Westerville South High School football team played host to Hilliard Darby in an OCC-Cardinal Division game Oct.5, the Wildcats made a number of costly mistakes en route to a 28-14 loss.

When the Westerville South High School football team played host to Hilliard Darby in an OCC-Cardinal Division game Oct.5, the Wildcats made a number of costly mistakes en route to a 28-14 loss.

South turned the ball over on downs three times, including twice in the red zone, and threw two interceptions, including one inside Darby's 30-yard line and another that Caleb Day returned 45 yards for a touchdown.

South coach Rocky Pentello said his team must avoid those kinds of errors to give itself a chance to win its Division I, Region 3 playoff opener Saturday, Nov. 3, at Darby.

The top-seeded Panthers are 10-0 overall and won the OCC-Cardinal title at 7-0 after beating Hilliard Bradley 42-0 on Oct. 26. The eighth-seeded Wildcats defeated Westerville North 52-15 on Oct. 26 to finish 8-2 overall and third in the OCC-Cardinal at 5-2, behind Darby and Dublin Scioto (6-1).

"We have to play a much more disciplined game this time around because we've already seen that we can't afford to make mistakes against a team like Hilliard Darby," Pentello said. "They don't make many mistakes, so we can't give them an advantage by making mistakes of our own."

Darby coach John Santagata said the Panthers will pressure South's backfield to try to force turnovers, but he emphasized it's equally important that his 4-3 defense remains disciplined to avoid giving up big plays.

Leading the defense are lineman Stephan Hernon (38 tackles, 3 sacks), backs Day (4 interceptions, 39 tackles) and Chase Longwell (4 fumble recoveries, 24 tackles) and linebackers Cameron Kohl (127 tackles, 4 sacks) and Trevor Parker (58 tackles, 2 sacks).

"We need to be aggressive at times to try to make some plays, but Westerville South has an explosive offense so our philosophy has to be bend but don't break, because they're going to make some plays over the course of the game," Santagata said.

South had 389 total yards in the first meeting on the Wildcats' turf field, and Pentello hopes his spread offense will be productive on Darby's grass field.

Leading the offense is quarterback Nick Renzetti, who has completed 188 of 327 passes for 3,054 yards with 33 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

His top targets are Jalen Bell (70 catches, 1,137 yards, 15 touchdowns), Marcus Ball (47 catches, 721 yards, 7 scores), Torrodd Carter (29 catches, 538 yards, 5 scores) and Darryl Long (27 catches, 429 yards, 4 scores).

Noah Prentiss has 950 yards rushing and seven touchdowns on 159 carries, and Darien Miller has 418 yards and six touchdowns on 53 carries.

"I wish we were playing them on turf again, especially with the rainy weather we've been having because that's where our guys can really use their speed to their advantage," Pentello said.

Santagata said his spread-option offense will try to establish the run, much like it did while gaining 292 yards rushing on 40 attempts in the first meeting with South.

Longwell has rushed for 782 yards and 13 touchdowns on 126 carries. He also has completed 47 of 77 passes for 792 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception.

Day has 27 receptions for 424 yards and five touchdowns and 406 yards rushing and eight touchdowns on 48 carries.

Hayden VanKirk has rushed for 680 yards and nine touchdowns on 121 carries, Michael Porter has rushed for 301 yards and four scores on 43 carries and Kohl has rushed for 232 yards and five touchdowns on 28 carries.

In the first meeting, Longwell rushed for 176 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries.

"We'd like to establish the run because if we run the ball well, we can control possession longer to keep their offense off the field," Santagata said. "Defensively, they bring a variety of blitzes, so we need to recognize their alignments and where they're coming from."

Pentello said his defense -- led by backs Ball (4 interceptions), Timmy Bates (7 interceptions) and Myles Collier and linebackers Miller and Kamaree Walden -- needs to do a better job of reading Darby's option.

"Hilliard Darby is big and physical, and they do what they do very well," Pentello said. "Their quarterback made some big plays against us (Oct. 5) and we need to minimize their big plays this time around. Our guys need to cover all of their assignments, and we need to be aggressive and cause turnovers when we get the opportunity."