To the winner go the spoils.
To the winner go the spoils.
That will definitely be the case Friday when the Olentangy Orange High School football team travels to play Delaware at Gauthier Field.
At least a share of the OCC-Capital Division championship will be at stake. So, too, will the playoff hopes of both squads.
"Winning the league championship was our first goal," coach Brian Cross said. "Making the playoffs was our second goal and winning a few playoff games was our third goal. Of course, we know that those are the same realistic goals that Delaware probably set this year, too."
The Pioneers and Pacers are both 4-1 in league play. They also share that lead with New Albany, but the Eagles play Friday at Mount Vernon, which is 2-3.
Orange, a second-year school, went 1-5 in the league in its first season. Delaware has not won a league championship since 1996.
"It's a win-or-else game for both of us," Delaware coach Mike LoParo said. "The league, the postseason, everything is riding on this game. It's a one-game season right now. The winner most likely gets to play in the second season."
While a league title is worthy of bragging rights, a playoff berth usually produces a longer-term goal of building excitement throughout a program.
Delaware experienced that last season, beating Orange 21-7 in the final week and reaching the postseason for the first time. The Pacers lost to Pickerington Central 38-21 in the first round of the Division I, Region 3 playoffs to finish 7-4 overall.
Delaware was eighth last week in the Region 3 computer ratings. The Pacers could finish as high as sixth, but also could win and still need help to return to the playoffs.
The official OHSAA ratings weren't released until last Wednesday. The Pioneers were eighth in the Division II, Region 7 ratings last week. They would need no help from other playoff contenders should they beat Delaware. Orange could finish as high as third if everything fell just right.
The top four teams play host to a first-round game.
Orange won its first four games before losing to Big Walnut 17-10 on Sept. 25. The next week, they beat New Albany 37-22, but lost quarterback Corey Joe to a knee injury. Without him, they beat Watkins Memorial 17-10, lost to Upper Arlington 21-6 and beat Hilliard Bradley 42-0.
Joe's status for Friday was uncertain, although he is off crutches and has begun rehabilitation.
"He's walking and rehabilitating, but we don't know if he'll be ready by Friday," Cross said.
Junior Jared Leet has filled in at quarterback.
"He's doing a nice job, getting better with his reads and gaining confidence as he has become more comfortable," Cross said. "Right now, he's our quarterback."
New Albany's Joe Morlan threw for 239 yards and three touchdowns against the Pacers.
"They hit three deep passes. It's not like they riddled Delaware's defense," Cross said.
"I know that we will have to throw the ball more this week because Delaware is very stout against the run."
Trying to run through holes in the defense will be sophomore Brandon Schoen, who had 129 yards on 14 carries against UA.
Other key players on offense include running backs Blake Joe and Daniel Watson, receivers Ross Smith and Chase Swisher and tackle Kyle Bodner, who anchors the line. Blake Joe also is used as a receiver.
"They've got some weapons, so our defense will definitely have to be well-prepared this week," LoParo said.
Delaware is led on defense by linebackers Tino Rivera, Ponchi Rivera and Franco Rossi, nose guard Dalton Hartley, ends Josh Hunt and Keith Butts and strong safety Michael Corbett.
Kody Akers is the quarterback in Delaware's option offense, with Vidal O'Connor and Corbett at slotbacks and Jacob Naegele at fullback.
"Their quarterback does a nice job in that offense and he has three quality backs, too," Cross said. "They also have a nice receiver in (Nick Kaser). It's a difficult offense to defend when you see it just once a year and they execute it well."
ORANGE at DELAWARE
•When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
•Last meeting: 2008, Delaware 21-7
•Orange (7-2, 4-1 in OCC-Capital) to date: Defeated Olentangy 27-6; def. Mifflin 35-6; def. Bellville Clear Fork 24-21; def. Mount Vernon 35-0; lost to Big Walnut 31-15; def. New Albany 37-22; def. Watkins Memorial 17-10; lost to Upper Arlington 21-16; def. Bradley 42-0
•Delaware (6-3, 4-1 in OCC-Capital) to date: Defeated Buckeye Valley 37-8; def. Olentangy 17-14; lost to Olentangy Liberty 31-0; lost to Hilliard Davidson 38-7; def. Mount Vernon 31-16; def. Watkins Memorial 21-0; def. Big Walnut 17-10; def. Hilliard Bradley 49-7; lost to New Albany 42-21
•Top Pioneers: Kyle Bogner (OL), Alex Chekanoff (LB), Jacob Harris (LB), Blake Joe (RB/WR), Jared Leet (QB), Brandon Schoen (RB), Ross Smith (WR/DB), Chase Swisher (WR) and Daniel Watson (RB)
•Top Pacers: Kody Akers (QB), Michael Corbett (RB/DB), Troy Decker (DL), Dalton Hartley (OL/DL), Vidal O'Connor (RB), Tino Rivera (LB) and Franco Rossi (LB)