So far, the talk between Pickerington High School North senior Eric Phillips and Big Walnut senior Brad Beltram has been pretty cordial this season.

So far, the talk between Pickerington High School North senior Eric Phillips and Big Walnut senior Brad Beltram has been pretty cordial this season.

Whenever the two have texted one another, it usually has been to send a good-luck message for the coming week.

Things might get a little more heated Friday at North when the two former teammates meet for the first time in three years with each of their team's respective postseason hopes on the line.

Phillips played Little League football with Beltram and several other current Golden Eagles from fifth grade through ninth. He even dressed varsity when Big Walnut made it to a Division III regional final in 2006.

Then, when his father, Tom Phillips, took over as the Panthers coach in 2007, the Phillips family moved to Pickerington.

"Ever since the South-Western City Schools levy didn't pass, we knew we were going to be playing each other," Beltram said. "It's going to be difficult playing a close friend. He plays the same position that I play, so maybe later in the week there will be a little bit more smack talk, like who can get a touchdown or who can get an interception."

For Eric Phillips, having a chance to face Beltram and his other former teammates on the field is something he's been looking forward to all season.

Both the Panthers and the Golden Eagles are 6-3 overall, and both Beltram and Eric Phillips are key players at wide receiver and defensive back. North is shooting for a playoff berth in Division I, Region 3 and Big Walnut is on the bubble in Division II, Region 7.

"This is going to be fun, really fun actually," Eric Phillips said. "I still keep in touch with a lot of guys over there. It could possibly be the last game of my high school career, so if it ends up that way and I end my high school (career) against the guys I played with in fifth grade, that's going to be fun. We're both 6-3 and both 12th in our regions, so it's pretty much a must-win for both of us."

It will be the third meeting between the programs, but the first since 2005 when Big Walnut won 34-31. The Golden Eagles downed North 23-12 in 2004, preventing the Panthers from making the playoffs during their second season as a program.

The Panthers have won four in a row, including pounding Newark 48-6 last Friday when Matt Ferguson rushed for 65 yards. He now has 1,019 yards overall with 10 touchdowns. Gianni Lynch has been a steady No. 2 rusher with 632 yards and six touchdowns.

Beltram and junior linebacker Jacob Walaszek lead a Big Walnut defense which has been the team's most consistent area under first-year coach Joe Weaver. The Golden Eagles shut out Mount Vernon 28-0 last Friday and allow an average of 12.5 points.

The most interesting battle should take place up front when Big Walnut has the ball.

Senior Skyler Schofner, a 6-foot-7, 300-pound offensive tackle who played little last Friday as he battled sickness, is among the nation's top recruits.

While Ferguson has a team-leading 79 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks at linebacker, Schofner will go head-to-head with defensive linemen Chris Fuqua (15 tackles for a loss), Jalen Campbell (7.5 tackles for losses) and Kyle Schaeffer (11 tackles for losses).

The Panthers have given up just 73 points (8.7 average) on the season.

"We're looking at this as our playoff game," coach Tom Phillips said. "We're giving up seven-something points a game and we're shooting for a shutout.

"(Big Walnut plays) with passion and intensity, and they're very sound. That Skyler Schofner kid is huge and runs a 4.9 (in the 40-yard dash). They've had some letdowns this year like we did, but we know they're a great team."

Next game


•When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

•Last meeting: 2005, Big Walnut 34-31

•Big Walnut (6-3) to date: Defeated Westerville Central 21-14; def. Chillicothe 33-10; lost to Olentangy 17-0; def. Watkins Memorial 27-7; def. Olentangy Orange 31-15; def. Hilliard Bradley 34-6; lost to Delaware 17-10; lost to New Albany 27-20; def. Mount Vernon 28-0

•North (6-3) to date: Def. Dublin Scioto 12-7; lost to Logan 24-21; def. Mifflin 43-0; lost to Groveport 14-10; lost to Pickerington Central 7-6; def. Reynoldsburg 17-7; def. Gahanna 33-0; def. Lancaster 15-14; def. Newark 48-6

•Top Golden Eagles: Brad Beltram (WR/DB), Matt Brown (DL), Johnny Cannell (QB), Buddy Carrel (RB), Seth Dunn (LB), Lucas Garcia (DB), Cody Leitner (RB), Skyler Schofner (OL), Jacob Walaszek (LB) and Jordan Whitner (RB)

•Top Panthers: Jalen Campbell (DL), Steven Crane (OL), Matt Ferguson (RB/LB), Sean Flaherty (QB/K), Chris Fuqua (DL), Devin Lomax (WR), Gianni Lynch (RB/LB) and Kyle Shaeffer (OL/DL)