When the Hilliard Darby High School football team plays host to Westerville North in the OCC-Cardinal Division opener for both squads Friday, Sept. 18, coach John Santagata said the Panthers' offense likely won't showcase many new plays or formations.

When the Hilliard Darby High School football team plays host to Westerville North in the OCC-Cardinal Division opener for both squads Friday, Sept. 18, coach John Santagata said the Panthers' offense likely won't showcase many new plays or formations.

Darby, which beat Springfield 34-22 on Sept. 11 to improve to 3-0, simply wants to operate its spread-option offense more effectively.

Against Springfield, quarterback Nick Powers rushed for 169 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries and attempted only one pass, which fell incomplete. Fullback Kyle Colvin added 164 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 22 carries.

"We want to continue to do what we do, but we want to improve on it," Santagata said. "It isn't that we don't want to throw the ball, but our first priority is to establish our running game so that we can throw when we want to instead of when we need to."

North will be looking to shore up its run defense after giving up 355 yards and four touchdowns on the ground in a 28-7 loss at Groveport on Sept. 11 that dropped the Warriors to 0-3.

"Powers is a super player and he makes their offense go," North coach Rodger Elander said. "You have to pick your poison because if you overload for the run, they're capable of throwing the ball well. We have to limit our mistakes and force them to throw the ball in third-and-long situations."

North is trying to ignite its spread offense after scoring a total of 27 points through three games.

Against Groveport, quarterback Julian Malone scored on a 24-yard run, and the Warriors rushed for 147 yards on 37 carries, averaging slightly under 4.0 yards per carry.

"We need to be more consistent and get positive yards on first down," Elander said. "We have to run the ball effectively to beat these guys and keep their offense on the sidelines as long as possible. We also have to handle their pressure. They aren't going to blitz every down, but their linebackers read so well that we have to pick them up when they come."

Santagata said his defense needs to do a better job of taking away big plays after the Panthers surrendered a season-high 401 total yards and three touchdown passes of 20 or more yards against Springfield.

Linebacker Thomas Scholl had 12 tackles, linebacker Braeden Hook had eight tackles and cornerback Noah Li had seven tackles against Springfield.

"We're going to do our best to slow down their run and defend the deep ball," Santagata said.