Improvements that might not be obvious by looking at the scoreboard are what Westerville North High School football coach Scott Wetzel is emphasizing, both to his team and fans, with two games to go in the season.

Improvements that might not be obvious by looking at the scoreboard are what Westerville North High School football coach Scott Wetzel is emphasizing, both to his team and fans, with two games to go in the season.

"It can be tough to build a program in this league," said Wetzel, whose team is 3-5 overall and 0-3 in the OCC-Buckeye Division entering a Friday, Oct. 21, visit to Olentangy and has lost four consecutive games. "When I look back over the course of the season, I do see that we've gotten much better, even if that's not always evident on the scoreboard. We are a much better team. We block better. We understand schemes more. That can be tough to evaluate with some of the programs we face.

"Ultimately, though, we are evaluated by wins and losses. I evaluate by wins and losses."

North suffered a hard-luck loss to Westerville South on Oct. 14, losing 10-9 for their 10th consecutive setback against the Wildcats.

Bodi Bien rushed for 124 yards on 28 carries, including the team's only touchdown with 2 minutes, 32 seconds left to give the Warriors a 9-3 lead. But the point-after attempt failed, and Michigan State University commit Dominique Long caught a 45-yard touchdown pass from Trent Burke just over a minute later for the winning score.

"(Long) split two guys and took off," Wetzel said. "Our guys gave all they had, but we couldn't catch him. He's a special athlete."

Olentangy dropped to 5-3 overall and 1-2 in the OCC-Buckeye with a 31-0 loss at third-ranked Olentangy Liberty on Oct. 14.

The Braves fumbled the opening kickoff, trailed 39 seconds into the game and were held to 86 total yards -- including just 3 yards rushing.

Sophomore quarterback Connor Haag stepped into the starting job this year and has completed 110 of 184 passes for 1,385 yards with 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Ali Iverson leads the ground game with 389 yards and three touchdowns on 93 carries, and Sam Durst -- whom Braves coach Mark Solis originally slated to be the starting quarterback -- leads the team's receivers with 438 yards and five touchdowns on 25 catches and has rushed for 342 yards and three touchdowns on 42 carries.

Linebacker Xavier Harrison and linemen Rodas Harrison, Jacob Slade and Zach Slade are among Olentangy's top defensive players.

"They are solid on both sides of the ball. You can tell what a strong program they have built," Wetzel said. "We'll have to play great. We cannot play an average game and beat them."

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave