Arguably one of the area's most entertaining opening-night rivalries takes place Thursday, Aug. 24, when the New Albany High School football team plays host to Reynoldsburg.
It will be the final installment, at least for now, of a series that dates to 2012 because the two are not scheduled to play in 2018. But Eagles coach Pat Samanich and Raiders coach Buddy White expect a wild game befitting of the series, led by Reynoldsburg 3-2 and in which New Albany has outscored the Raiders 153-148.
"It seems like it always comes down to the last play against them," Samanich said. "We have the utmost respect for their program. We know exactly what we're getting into. They're physical and they play fast. It's a great test and it's always a fun game."
After the Raiders edged the Eagles 10-9 in 2012, the series became a succession of shootouts, including back-to-back double-overtime games.
New Albany won 38-20 in 2013 and 36-35 in double overtime in 2014, and Reynoldsburg has won the past two meetings, 48-42 in two overtimes in 2015 and 35-28 last year.
New Albany went 9-4 last year, losing to Massillon Perry 17-6 in the Division II, Region 7 final.
Reynoldsburg finished 6-4 and missed out on its second consecutive playoff appearance in Division I.
The Eagles return quarterback Paxon Hunter and center Logan Cook to help pace an offense expected to feature tailback Michiah Burton and fullback Ty Ward. Burton rushed for 211 yards and three touchdowns on 42 carries last season, and Ward primarily has been a linebacker in recent years, a role in which he will continue.
"They're going to do what they do," White said. "They're very well-coached and believe in what they do. They're not going to back down. This is our last year playing them so we're expecting a really, really competitive game with them. They've got a system that works. We have to be on our 'A' game."
The Raiders boast Division I college commits in linemen Joe Boggs (Ball State) and Elijah Ratliff (Marshall), and linebacker Dezman Cooper and wide receiver Mershawn Rice also are getting Division I looks. Rice caught 29 passes for 441 yards and three touchdowns last year.
Cooper, a junior, is a three-year starter.
"Their wide receivers are tall. They're going to go up and get some balls, and there are some running backs we're impressed with," Samanich said.
"Defensively, you know what you're getting. The big thing for us is cleaning up our pad-level issues. We have to make sure to stay low and pay attention to the little details."
New Albany, which also is not continuing its contract with week two opponent Hilliard Bradley, picked up games against Dublin Scioto and Westerville South for 2018.
Reynoldsburg will visit Upper Arlington for next year's opener.