Matthew Christ fielded plenty of questions when he successfully interviewed to be football coach at Westerville South High School, but he made sure to ask one in particular himself.
"I asked who the big rival was, what traditions we carried on, things like that," Christ said. "I heard about Westerville North right away. It seems like a pretty respectful rivalry. I'm looking forward to being a part of it."
The Wildcats will seek their 11th consecutive win over the Warriors on Friday, Oct. 13, when they play host to North.
South is 3-4 overall and 0-2 in the OCC-Buckeye Division, coming off a 34-14 loss to Olentangy Liberty on Oct. 6.
That same night, North hung tough with Westerville Central but fell 21-12 to drop to 2-5 overall and 0-2 in the league. The Warriors have lost three consecutive games.
"Records don't mean much (in this rivalry)," North coach Scott Wetzel said. "Just the way our middle schools are drawn up, these kids not only play against each other but also with each other. I've said before that some schools don't have rivals and we are lucky enough to have two right here in Westerville. This game is a big deal."
South was held to 124 total yards against Liberty and gave up the game's final 28 points. Michael Mansaray had a 30-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and Malik Powell accounted for the Wildcats' other touchdown with an 80-yard kickoff return in the second.
Standout running back/def-ensive back Jaelen Gill, an Ohio State commit, injured a hamstring against Liberty and hopes to return this week. According to Christ, Gill was day-to-day earlier this week.
"We got off to a good start, we had a lead and then Liberty came back and led at halftime," Christ said. "It was a one-score game, and that's the time we could really stand to learn from. When adversity hits, we have to be gritty. We can't let things snowball out of control."
Wetzel cautioned that defenses must be prepared for many looks from South's spread offense.
"Jaelen Gill stands out but they have so much more than him and that makes them tough," Wetzel said. "There were times watching film that we thought 22 (Mansaray) was 21 (Gill). He's good and he makes solid plays. A lot of their guys do. They will test any defense."
Bodi Bien rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries to lead North against Central. Quarterback Reno Godfrey completed 11 of 26 passes for 126 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Defensive lineman Jeremiah Burton and linebackers Alek Downs and Greg Shehee pace the Warriors' 3-5 defense.
"They've had some tough losses as well that they wish would have gone the other way," Christ said. "(Wetzel) runs the wing-T, but it seems like they like to spread it out, too. They've been about 60/40 run to pass in the games I've seen. Defensively, they're pretty physical. (Burton) does a good job of commanding double teams. We'll have our hands full with him and that entire side of the ball."