Westerville Central High School football coach John Magistro had a simple message for his team this week as it prepared to open OCC-Buckeye Division play: The season is far from over.

Although the Warhawks are 2-3 and coming off consecutive losses, Magistro is hoping league play will provide renewed optimism.

Central plays host Friday, Sept. 29, to Olentangy Liberty, which is 3-2. The Patriots are looking to defend their league title after going 5-0 last season.

“This is like a new season,” Magistro said. “You have to take it week by week because you don’t know by the end of the season what’s going to happen. Those playoffs are really crazy. If you’re looking at the playoffs or a league championship, that’s all out there yet. We haven’t lost that.”

Magistro said he was pleased with his team’s effort in a 41-31 loss to visiting Reynoldsburg on Sept. 22. The Raiders scored the game’s final 14 points to erase a 31-27 fourth-quarter deficit.

Quarterback Isaiah Healy passed for 208 yards and ran for 93 yards and three scores. Allen Smith rushed for 182 yards and one touchdown, and Ashton Gilkey had 84 yards receiving.

“I thought we played with a lot of effort,” Magistro said. “Our offensive line play was a complete turnaround, a real big improvement. They had athletes and their athletes made some plays. One of our downfalls is we play guys both ways and it was a warm day and they get exhausted. That is our dilemma.”

Magistro is looking for another strong effort against Liberty, which hopes to rebound from a 42-0 loss to visiting Pickerington North on Sept. 22.

The Patriots were held to 45 total yards, including 35 yards passing, but Magistro is impressed with Liberty quarterback Mitchell Okuley.

“He played against us last year (when Liberty won 24-14),” Magistro said. “They’re a very sound football team. They play good defense. Offensively, they’re similar to what we do. (They’re) pretty much a spread offense. It’s nothing that we haven’t seen before. Their offensive and defensive fronts are pretty good. Every week is going to be a challenge.”