As the New Albany High School football team returned to the regional final round for the first time in three years, coach Pat Samanich felt like he saw a lot more of his team than usual this week.

As the New Albany High School football team returned to the regional final round for the first time in three years, coach Pat Samanich felt like he saw a lot more of his team than usual this week.

Much of that was because Samanich said Massillon Perry, the Eagles' opponent in the Division II, Region 7 final Friday, Nov. 18, at Arlin Field in Mansfield, has thrived on many of the philosophies New Albany uses.

Both the third-seeded Eagles and top-seeded Panthers have used effective running games out of the wing-T to prolong their seasons.

New Albany rushed for 307 yards in a 31-7 win over seventh-seeded Dublin Scioto in a regional semifinal Nov. 11 at DeSales. That same night, Perry amassed 506 rushing yards to rout fourth-seeded Franklin Heights 66-28 at Mount Vernon and improve to 10-2.

"They are kind of fun to watch," said Samanich, whose team has won eight consecutive games to improve to 9-3.

"In this day and age of spread offenses, they run traps, jet sweeps and buck sweeps. They look a little different. We are not exactly alike, but a lot of times it is like looking in the mirror."

New Albany's defense forced four turnovers against Scioto -- three fumbles and an interception. Tommy Pollack returned a fumble to the Irish's 25-yard line, and Brandon DeHass scored the first of two touchdowns two plays later.

DeHass rushed for 112 yards and two scores on 20 carries, boosting his season totals to 1,170 yards and 14 touchdowns on 110 carries. Victor White, whose return from a shoulder injury for this week is uncertain, has 148 carries for 1,120 yards and 17 touchdowns.

New Albany outgained Scioto 334-151.

"Our game plan is the same for every game," Pollack said. "We treat every game like a playoff game. Every one of us is going to the ball. If I hadn't gotten that fumble, the next guy would have gotten it. That's what makes us a special team. We are not individual players.

"Every game recently for us has been a must-win. That's been huge for our mindset. We are used to this pressure."

The winner advances to a state semifinal Nov. 25 against defending state champion Cincinnati La Salle, Hudson, Miamisburg, Olmsted Falls, Warren Harding or Whitehouse Anthony Wayne.

Semifinal pairings will be announced Sunday, Nov. 20.

Malachi Strickland's 248 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 26 carries led Perry past Franklin Heights in what was far and away the Panthers' best offensive night of the season. Perry had not scored more than 35 points in a game this year, having hit that number in consecutive wins over Green (35-30 on Oct. 7) and Uniontown Lake (3-0 on Oct. 14).

Tevion Cleveland added 74 yards and a touchdown on five carries against Franklin Heights, which was coming off its first playoff win. Senior Matt Carrick, a Michigan State recruit and second-team all-state guard last year, paces the offensive line and also sees time at defensive tackle.

"You have to have mental maturity to play in this tournament," Perry coach Keith Wakefield said after the regional semifinal. "You don't know your opponent a lot of the time and it's a one-week season. They were mature enough to move on."

Perry has won two regional championships, most recently last season, when it advanced to the Division II state final and lost to La Salle 42-0. The Panthers were 0-10 in 2013 but improved to 6-5 in 2014 and 12-3 last year.

New Albany is 2-2 in regional finals, including a 35-28 loss to Zanesville in Division II, Region 5 in 2013 and a 32-30 win over Marion-Franklin in Region 7 in 2012.

"This is huge for our program," DeHass said. "For us to get to the regional final, it makes me think of all the great players who wore this uniform before me."

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