This year's "Battle of 256" is everything the Pickerington High School Central football team hoped it would be and not much of what Reynoldsburg wanted.

This year's "Battle of 256" is everything the Pickerington High School Central football team hoped it would be and not much of what Reynoldsburg wanted.

Just like most of the past decade.

The host Tigers will seek Friday, Oct. 28, to win the outright OCC-Ohio Division title. They clinched a share of their sixth consecutive league championship with a 34-0 win at Grove City on Oct. 21. It was their seventh consecutive win since losses to Cincinnati Moeller and Cincinnati St. Xavier to start the season.

The Raiders, who enter at 6-3 and 4-2, know they have clinched their first winning season since 2005. But last week's 33-0 loss to visiting Gahanna damaged hopes of making the playoffs for the first time since 2001, the last time the Raiders defeated Central.

Nonetheless, the Raiders will be ready to play, coach Buddy White said.

"It's easy to motivate the kids when you're playing Pickerington Central," he said. "They are a big rival of ours and we have a lot of respect for that program. We won't have any problem getting our guys ready to play."

The Raiders were limited to 131 total yards against Gahanna, which returned two interceptions for touchdowns. Reynoldsburg, which has thrived off a multi-faceted offense led by senior running back Kumar Collins, senior receiver/multi-purpose threat Mykel Traylor-Bennett and sophomore quarterback Jordan Aekins, fell to 0-3 against teams with winning records.

Reynoldsburg's last win in the series was 30-14 at Crew Stadium in the 2001 opener for both teams. Games in the series have been decided by an average of 22 points since and have been closer than 14 points only twice (21-7 in 2002 and 14-7 in 2007).

Central won 45-0 last year.

Quarterback Nick Jensen-Clagg passed for 206 yards and two touchdowns against Grove City, and the Tigers gained 283 yards in the first half.

"It's our senior night, Reynoldsburg is our oldest rival and the outright OCC title is on the line, so this is a big game for us," Tigers coach Jay Sharrett said. "We're playing well right now and we just want to take care of business. We see that coach White has his guys believing and playing good football. Reynoldsburg's moving the ball and tackling well. They're a much-improved team."

Grove City (3-6, 2-4) at Pickerington North (7-2, 4-2)

With a 35-25 loss to Grove City in its regular-season finale a year ago, Pickerington North settled for ninth in the Division I, Region 3 computer ratings, one spot from the playoffs after making the postseason for the first time in 2009.

The Dawgs and Panthers find themselves in a similar situation entering their matchup Friday, Oct. 28, at North.

North was seventh in Region 3 before beating Newark 31-14 on Oct. 21 and likely needs a win to secure a playoff spot.

The Panthers are 7-2 overall and third at 4-2 in the OCC-Ohio Division.

Grove City, at 3-6 and 2-4, is hoping to play a spoiler role.

"It's a personal game," North senior running back Alston Robertson said. "Right now it means everything. If we lose we're out and if we win we've got a great chance to make the playoffs."

The Panthers led 21-0 in the first quarter against Newark, which dropped to 0-9.

Godwin Igwebuike rushed for 189 yards and two touchdowns and Robertson had 149 yards and one score against the Wildcats.

Igwebuike has 935 yards and nine touchdowns rushing for the season.

Other key players on offense for the Panthers include quarterback Zach Olszewski (12 touchdown passes) and tight end Jake Butt (seven touchdown receptions).

The Panthers are averaging 34.1 points while giving up 13.3.

Grove City is led by quarterback Nick Davis, who was 88 of 172 passing for 888 yards through eight games.

The Dawgs lost 34-0 to Pickerington Central on Oct. 21.

North's Pat Elflein, an Ohio State recruit, had 17 tackles for losses and Butt had eight sacks through eight games. Tabeal Radney (DB) and Luke Carothers (DL) are other key players on defense for the Panthers.

Grove City has been outscored 152-85 in league games. Cornerback Ryan Barbari leads the Dawgs' defense.

"We're trying to climb out of the gutter, but we're playing Pickerington North next, so it isn't going to get any easier," Dawgs coach Matt Jordan said. "This is an opportunity for us because they have to beat us to get into the playoffs. They're big up front and they have a very talented quarterback, so we've got our work cut out for us."

-Jarrod Ulrey