The Hilliard Darby and Thomas Worthington high school football teams both entered their respective Sept. 29 contests with a two-game losing streak.
The Panthers rebounded to beat Mount Vernon 31-6 to improve to 3-3 overall and are 1-1 in the OCC-Cardinal Division, but the Cardinals dropped their third consecutive game with a 33-32 loss to Dublin Jerome to fall to 3-3 and 0-3.
Thomas, which won its first three games, will be seeking to turn things around when it plays host to Darby on Friday, Oct. 6.
"Thomas is much improved and a very dangerous club," Darby coach John Santagata said. "Their record is not indicative of how good they are and how well they've played. They've led at halftime in each of their losses. They're doing good things schematically.
"They're very explosive on offense and special teams. We played Westerville South this year and (running back and Ohio State commit) Jaelen Gill is the most dynamic player I've ever gone against. But (Thomas) has two kids that aren't far behind in (receiver/slotback Khalil Jones) and (running back Dijahn Davis). That (Jones) kid had an unbelievable punt return (against Jerome) and looks like a real special player."
Darby has been banged up with injuries and used Canyon Uphouse at fullback and slotback against Mount Vernon. Uphouse rushed for 72 yards and a 10-yard touchdown on 10 carries and caught three passes for 50 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown. He also returned a punt 61 yards for a touchdown.
Sophomore quarterback Jack Stultz, playing for injured starter Henry Sopko, was 5-for-6 passing. Santagata said he doesn't expect Sopko to return this season.
"Darby is very fast and athletic and their linebackers flow to the ball very well," Thomas coach Matt Zingery said. "They are so disciplined on defense and never are out of position. They aren't running the option as much as years past, but that could be because of the quarterback situation.
"The one thing that stands out is they play for 48 minutes. They play hard to the last play. We could learn from that."
The Cardinals led Jerome 32-21 in the fourth quarter, but the Celtics quarterback Hayden Schell scored on a 3-yard run with 5 minutes, 6 seconds left and then Andrew Brim hauled in a 5-yard touchdown pass from Schell with 6 seconds left to complete the rally.
"We didn't punt in the second half and all four of our possessions we got to the Jerome 30-yard line," said Zingery, whose team lost to Worthington Kilbourne 26-25 in overtime on Sept. 15 and led Hilliard Bradley at halftime before losing 31-17 on Sept. 22. "We've got to find a way to finish."
Against Jerome, Jones had five catches for 91 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown, and returned a punt 61 yards for a score. Davis rushed for 101 yards, including an 18-yard touchdown, on 21 carries, and quarterback Charlie Rhoades was 14-for-24 passing for 179 yards.