It will be a tall task for the fourth installment of the season-opening series between the New Albany and Reynoldsburg high school football teams to top the third.

It will be a tall task for the fourth installment of the season-opening series between the New Albany and Reynoldsburg high school football teams to top the third.

The Eagles, who play host to the Raiders on Friday, Aug. 28, edged Reynoldsburg 36-35 in a double-overtime thriller last year. That began up-and-down seasons for both teams, as New Albany finished 5-5 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2009, and Reynoldsburg went 3-7 and extended its postseason drought to 13 seasons.

With considerable losses to graduation for both teams, New Albany coach Pat Samanich was unsure whether this meeting would bear much similarity to the previous three, all of which the Eagles won.

"I know this is a senior class (the Raiders) have been looking forward to for a while. We have to be ready to rock and roll right off the bat," Samanich said. "They have a defensive lineman (Northwestern recruit Mark Gooden) who is projected to be first-team all-state. We have had three really good games with them. It's a matchup that gets our kids' attention right away and helps us get a sense of urgency."

Reynoldsburg coach Buddy White hopes that is the case for his team, especially considering the Raiders return several key skill-position players. Senior running back Cameron Young ran for a team-high 540 yards and five touchdowns last year. He will be complemented by senior Amos Paasewe, who had 256 yards rushing and a touchdown.

Junior Nathan Barko takes over as the starting quarterback after seeing limited time in 2014, when he played in four games.

New Albany's defense is paced by an experienced group of linebackers expected to be led by seniors Nick Dewberry, Sam Looker and M.J. Jones and junior Davey Chamberlain.

"(The Eagles) do what they do incredibly well," White said. "Coach Samanich's kids seem like they've bought into what they're trying to do. The team that won the game last year was supposed to win. When they had opportunities they got it done and when we had opportunities, we didn't get it done. If we should have beaten them, we would have beaten them. But it's a great series we've got going with them."

White is familiar with the player expected to lead New Albany's running game, as Eagles junior Victor White is his nephew. Victor White rushed for 544 yards and seven touchdowns on 62 carries last year, second behind 2015 graduate James Smith (931 carries, 9 touchdowns, 129 carries), who scored the winning touchdown against Reynoldsburg.

Senior Casey Horch replaces 2015 graduate Jalen Ward as the Eagles' starting quarterback.

They will go up against a Reynoldsburg defense led by Gooden, who had 34 tackles last year, senior lineman Chris Tudor, who had 31 tackles in 2014, and junior defensive back Sam Cooper. Cooper, whose uncle, Joe Cooper, was a standout at Independence and played for Ohio State, had 17.5 tackles as a sophomore.

The Raiders gave up 35 or more points five times last year.