Even with mostly sophomores and juniors as key players on defense, St. Charles Preparatory School football coach Jeff Pharion has had reasons to smile about the unit this season.

Even with mostly sophomores and juniors as key players on defense, St. Charles Preparatory School football coach Jeff Pharion has had reasons to smile about the unit this season.

The Cardinals could face their toughest opposing offense to date when they travel Friday, Oct. 2, to Hartley.

The Hawks are averaging 38.4 points with a rushing attack led by senior running back Quri Hickman and junior quarterback Jake Ruby.

The teams met for the first time since 1988 during the 2013 season, with Hartley winning 20-7. Last season, the Hawks edged the Cardinals 24-21.

"Our defense is playing really well right now," Pharion said. "We only start two seniors on defense so things are looking really promising."

St. Charles, which beat the Columbus Crusaders 48-13 on Sept. 25 to improve to 3-2, committed six turnovers in a 37-22 loss to Reynoldsburg on Sept. 4 but posted a shutout against Columbus South (38-0 on Aug. 28) and also was solid defensively in a loss to Watterson (12-0 on Sept. 18).

Seniors Taylor Hill and Patrick McPherson are linemen who have led the defense, and junior linebacker Greg Scarpitti and junior free safety Davionn Johnson also have been standouts, according to Pharion.

Johnson had four interceptions in the Cardinals' first four games and then returned an interception for a score against the Crusaders.

The Hawks lost to Beavercreek 28-24 on Sept. 25 to fall to 3-2.

Hickman has rushed for 654 yards and six touchdowns, with his best game coming Sept. 10 when he had 230 yards and three scores in a 44-14 win over Marion-Franklin.

Ruby has passed for 232 yards and three touchdowns and has rushed for 297 yards with two scores. Two of his touchdowns passes went for 62 yards to wide receiver Rian Anderson.

Juniors Cam'Ron Culver (RB) and Richard Jones III (RB/WR) also have helped spark the offense.

The Hawks' 38-27 loss to DeSales on Sept. 18 snapped an 11-game regular-season winning streak.

"We've been down these roads before and we feel good about our ability to respond," coach Brad Burchfield said.