When Westerville Central High School football coach John Magistro watches video of Olentangy Orange, one thing truly stands out: the Pioneers' speed.
It's the most important thing Magistro will need to plan for when his Warhawks visit Orange on Thursday, Oct. 12, in OCC-Buckeye Division play.
"(The Pioneers) have speed on both sides of the ball," said Magistro, whose team is 3-4 overall and 1-1 in the league. "They have the big kid (6-foot-6, 245-pound Zach Harrison) on the defensive line and it looks like they also have two other clones of him out there as well. They have speed and they have length. They have some tall guys who move well and execute the fundamentals of football."
The Pioneers are 7-0 overall for the first time and 2-0 in the OCC-Buckeye. Coach Zebb Schroeder said the Warhawks play a tough, gambling defense because they have the talent to blitz.
"They play a four-man front and we'll see a lot of blitzes," Schroeder said. "They can do that because they have some good corners and strong safeties. They also have some big, tall defensive ends and that makes it tough for you in the passing game."
Orange has given up only 9.4 points per game and has scored 32.3 per contest. Central has averaged 24.9 points but has surrendered 28.4 per game.
The Warhawks have won both meetings between the teams, 31-14 last season and 33-10 in 2015.
Running back Allen Smith rushed for 214 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries to lead Central past Westerville North 21-12 on Oct. 6. Quarterback Isaiah Healy was 11-for-26 passing for 126 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, and wide receiver Cameron Phillips caught three passes for 60 yards.
"They have some good skill players and I was really impressed with (Healy) and his receivers," Schroeder said. "They have a really good running back (Smith) that has a great blend of strength and speed. They're big up front. If they had not played such a tough schedule, they would probably have six or seven wins right now."
The Pioneers rallied and then held off Olentangy 30-28 on Oct. 6. After trailing 21-3 in the second quarter, Garrett Runyon returned a punt 60 yards for a touchdown to give Orange a 30-21 lead with 11 minutes, 5 seconds to play.
After the Braves cut their deficit to two, Harrison dropped running back Ali Iverson for a 3-yard loss to the Orange 35-yard line on fourth-and-4 with 1:02 remaining to secure the win.
Quarterback Luke Schmeling was 8-for-16 passing for 119 yards with one touchdown and rushed for 59 yards on 10 carries with one score.
"They don't have a whole lot of weaknesses and they beat Olentangy, which is always a good offensive team," Magistro said. "When you look at them, their speed catches your attention right away."