First place in the OCC-Cardinal Division will be on the line Friday when Westerville South entertains Dublin Jerome in a high school football game.

First place in the OCC-Cardinal Division will be on the line Friday when Westerville South entertains Dublin Jerome in a high school football game.

Both teams are 3-2 overall and 2-0 in the league.

Last season, South won 54-38 but shared the title with the Celtics and Olentangy Liberty as all finished 3-2.

After losing two close games to open the season, the Wildcats have been on a roll.

"One of the biggest keys is our defense hasn't given up more than nine points in the past three games," South senior center Mike Bell said. "It's hard to lose when your defense is playing that well."

The Wildcats run a base 4-3 defense, and pressure opponents with an effective blitzing scheme.

"They have several players, especially on the defensive side, that are just so athletic," Jerome coach Mark Hundley said. "Their defense is just so fast and they get after it on that side of the ball from the linebackers to the D-line and even the D-backs."

South also has been boosted by the return of senior quarterback Jonathon Jennings, who missed the first four games with a broken clavicle. Jennings made his debut last Friday in a 34-9 win against Dublin Scioto. The 34 points is a season-high for the Wildcats.

"He is quite a leader of that offense," Hundley said of Jennings. "The fact that he is back has to be a pretty big moral boost for that whole team."

Jennings should give South an even more dangerous offense, which also features tailback Jayshan Jackson, who had his fifth 100-yard game of the season (20 carries, 136 yards, two touchdowns) against Scioto.

South coach Rocky Pentello was hoping that senior wide receiver Tevin Favor, who replaced Jennings at quarterback in the early season, would return to the lineup after missing last week's game because of a sprained ankle.

"I think we're a better team because it puts Tevin at receiver once he gets healthy and it makes us a better receiver corp," Pentello said.

Pentello also was hoping that junior linebacker Drake Wakefield (broken arm) and junior lineman Joe Stiltner would return to the lineup soon.

Jerome's 3-4 base defense will look to contain South's potent attack.

"Defensively, they cover really well and they run to the ball," Pentello said. "They really get to the ball, so we're pretty impressed with them on film."

Hundley noted a key to his team's success would be controlling the line of scrimmage.

"It's the same thing that we have to do every single week," Hundley said. "If we can do it up front on both sides of the ball, then we'll be OK."

After beginning the season 1-2, the Celtics have won two in a row, including 23-13 over Liberty last Friday.

Jerome's offense and defense took a big blow though when leader Steve Mehrer suffered a knee injury. Mehrer, a running back and linebacker, was expected to be re-evaluated this week and his availability for Friday was uncertain.

Led by quarterback Ryan Gannon and running back/receiver Cameron Wilson, the Celtics will look to solve South's aggressive defense.

"Jerome is faster than what I thought," Pentello said. "They're faster than last year, so their team speed is really good.

"The quarterback throws really well, their running back is explosive and they have some receivers that can vertically stretch you, too, so offensively those are our concerns."

"It's definitely going to be an exciting game," Hundley said. "Westerville South is probably the team picked to win the league this year, so it should be an interesting game."

Next game


• When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

•Last meeting: 2008, South 54-38

•Jerome (3-2 overall, 2-0 OCC-Cardinal) to date: Defeated Reynoldsburg 16-6; lost to Hilliard Darby 28-25; lost to Groveport 35-20; def. Westerville North 49-7; def. Olentangy Liberty 23-13

•South (3-2, 2-0 OCC-Cardinal) to date: Lost to Hilliard Davidson 21-20; lost to Watterson 16-10; def. Clayton Northmont 17-7; def. Westerville Central 28-7; def. Dublin Scioto 34-9

•Top Celtics: Ryan Gannon (QB), A.J. Lowe (WR), Steve Mehrer (RB/LB), Chris Osbun (WR/DB), Cameron Wilson (RB/WR)

•Top Wildcats: Ryan Barber (WR), Mike Bell (C), Jayshan Jackson (RB), Jonathon Jennings (QB), Jack Tomlinson (WR)