With the Hilliard Bradley High School football team now in its eighth season, coach Mike LoParo sees a program that has come of age.

With the Hilliard Bradley High School football team now in its eighth season, coach Mike LoParo sees a program that has come of age.

The Jaguars will make their first playoff appearance Friday, Nov. 4, at home against a program that went through a similar growth pattern in Pickerington North.

It took the Panthers seven seasons before they made the postseason for the first time in 2009, and they didn't win their first postseason game until 2012 when they reached a Division I state semifinal.

Bradley is the No. 2 seed for Division I, Region 3, while North is seeded seventh and is back in the postseason for the first time since 2013. The winner will play third-seeded Pickerington Central or sixth-seeded Springfield in a regional semifinal Nov. 11 at a site to be announced.

"It's really important because our school is eight years old and we've had two 7-3 seasons and a 6-4 season," LoParo said. "With not just our football team, but with the whole culture, we've had to learn how to win as a school. The kids have been building up to this."

Bradley is 9-1 overall and earned a share of the OCC-Cardinal Division championship with Dublin Jerome by beating Delaware 31-0 on Oct. 28. The Jaguars and Celtics both went 5-1 in the league.

North is 7-3 overall and needed a 28-21 overtime win over Gahanna on Oct. 27 just to qualify for the postseason. The Panthers finished 2-3 in the OCC-Ohio and split their last six games after a 4-0 start.

The matchup features two of central Ohio's top quarterbacks in Bradley's Will Phillis and North's Jimmy Weirick.

Phillis has completed 205 of 315 passes for 2,375 yards with 25 touchdowns and just three interceptions after throwing for 214 yards and three scores against Delaware.

Weirick is 133-for-253 passing for 2,267 yards with 22 touchdowns and five interceptions and has rushed for 276 yards and seven scores.

Weirick sent the game against Gahanna into overtime with a 4-yard touchdown run with 1 minute, 3 seconds left in the fourth quarter and then connected with Hayden Maziarz on a 12-yard touchdown pass in overtime.

"It's great for this team (to make the playoffs) because we had seven players transfer (during the offseason)," North coach Tom Phillips said.

"I've got a great bunch of kids and I'm very proud of them. We just believed we were going to get it done."

North has two of the area's top wide receivers in Connor Gessells, who has 55 catches for 818 yards and 12 touchdowns, and Ty Wiley, who has 38 receptions for 785 yards and six scores.

A'sonte' Clay has 75 carries for 458 yards and seven touchdowns to lead the Panthers' ground game.

"Their quarterback is really special, and they've got receivers who do a nice job of getting open," LoParo said. "I think you've got to put pressure on them. Our defensive line is pretty solid with Nick DeWolf and Brendan Bordner."

Bradley has a pair of big-play threats on offense to go along with Phillis in wide receiver Daevon Anderson and running back Robbie Hyrmer. Anderson had eight catches for 149 yards and three touchdowns against Delaware and has more than 1,000 yards receiving on the season, while Hyrmer has more than 1,000 yards rushing.

"With our quarterback, he's outstanding," LoParo said. "He makes real good decisions and is kind of like having a coach on the field. Robbie Hyrmer is a hard-nosed, downhill kid and, when we have an opportunity, we'll ride him."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek