The Pickerington High School Central and Upper Arlington football teams do not necessarily consider themselves rivals, but the memories of their Division I, Region 2 first-round playoff game 10 months ago still are fresh on both sides.

The Pickerington High School Central and Upper Arlington football teams do not necessarily consider themselves rivals, but the memories of their Division I, Region 2 first-round playoff game 10 months ago still are fresh on both sides.

The Golden Bears, who scored 20 unanswered points last November to beat the host Tigers 27-17, will play host to Central on Friday, Sept. 23.

Both teams are 4-0.

"The thing that stands out to me (about UA) is when things haven't gone their way, they haven't panicked. That's indicative of a team that hasn't lost a game yet," Tigers coach Jay Sharrett said. "We look at this more as a great matchup in the middle of the season with a ton of computer points on the line than a game with much of a revenge factor. We both have pretty good teams, and this will be a matchup that will test both of us."

Central rolls in coming off a 45-14 win over Groveport on Sept. 16. That same night, UA shut out Westerville South 27-0.

This will be the teams' first regular-season meeting since 2008, when Central defeated UA 23-6 in that season's opener. The teams also met in a Region 3 first-round playoff game that year, which Central won 24-16.

"We're excited about this game, but we're excited to play every week," Bears coach Joel Cutler said. "This is definitely a big one. There have been a lot of big, meaningful games (against Central), and this is 'the rematch.' They are well-coached and physical."

Both teams have leaned on solid running games and their defenses.

Led by linebackers Dante Landolfi and Mason Myers, among others, UA is allowing 10.3 points per game and gave up only 142 total yards against Westerville South. Defensive back Dylan Lewis returned a fumble 80 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter.

Bears running back E.J. Caldwell ran for 120 yards and two touchdowns against South. He not only leads UA in rushing with 492 yards and seven touchdowns on 60 carries, but also has a team-high 159 receiving yards and a touchdown on eight catches.

Quarterback Riley Cooper has completed 39 of 69 passes for 451 yards, four touchdowns and an interception.

"It's tough to get their guys out of position. I'm not sure how worth it it is to try tricky plays or a lot of misdirection," Sharrett said.

"We have to be willing to get small gains and, if we hit a crease, get what we can. Their offense is the same way -- very few missed assignments or missed blocks. We have to defeat them at the point of attack."

Linebacker Garon Howard is among several standouts for Central's defense, which has given up an average of 9.3 points. He has seven sacks and 29 tackles.

Running back Morgan Ellison ran for 92 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries to lead the Tigers past Groveport. He leads the ground game with 330 yards and five touchdowns on 37 carries, while Jeremycole Graham has 225 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries.

Wide receiver Trenton Gillison is quarterback Darius Coker's favorite target, with seven catches for 138 yards.

"Schematically, I think both teams are similar even though we both graduated a lot," Cutler said.

"They're aggressive defensively and they pursue relentlessly. They have a lot of energy and play the game how it should be played. Offensively, at the end of the day, they still like to run the ball. They do some wing-T and spread."

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave