The Worthington Kilbourne High School football team knows it must match "force with force" up front when it plays host to Hilliard Darby on Friday, Oct. 13.
The Panthers defeated Thomas 45-14 on Oct. 6 for their second consecutive victory. They are 4-3 overall and 2-1 in the OCC-Cardinal Division and appear to be back on track after back-to-back losses in Weeks 4 and 5.
On Oct. 6, Kilbourne was outgained 187-70 on the ground in a 34-21 loss to Dublin Scioto in the Battle of Hard Road. The Irish beat the Wolves for the second year in a row and for the seventh time in the last nine meetings to tie the all-time series at 13.
"Darby did a great job in the trenches against Thomas," said coach Vince Trombetti, whose team is 3-4 overall and 2-1 in the OCC-Cardinal. "That's what stands out when you look at the (game) film. (Darby's) offensive line is not as big as past years, but they come off the ball. For us to have a chance, we've got to meet force with force. If we get knocked off the ball, we're in trouble."
Kilbourne struggled in short-yardage situations against Scioto, particularly on third down. The Wolves went only 3-for-13 on third down while the Irish were 10-for-19.
"We failed to get those tough yards when we needed them to maintain some ball control," Trombetti said. "On defense, we also failed to get off the field on third downs. So those are the areas we're focusing on this week against Darby. (Darby has) some fullbacks and slotbacks who are running the ball hard and running it well. Their young quarterback (Jack Stultz) has played a few games after (an injury to starter Henry Sopko) and is improving every week. He's reading defenses better."
Against Thomas, Canyon Uphouse rushed for 125 yards on 20 carries, Stultz ran for 102 yards on 10 carries, Clint Barnett had 94 yards on nine carries and Jaelin Benjamin had 73 yards on three carries as the Panthers totaled 427 yards rushing on 51 carries.
Stultz threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Nick Ferko and also ran for a score. Benjamin had two touchdown runs and Uphouse and Barnett both ran for a touchdown.
"I thought Canyon and Jack had good games and Clint returned from an injury and had a good game," Darby coach John Santagata said. "But we didn't have anyone with outstanding games, except for maybe our offensive line. I thought Michael Browning, Seth Schmidt and Ian Cover did great up front."
Defensive end Donta Ashcraft had seven tackles and a sack and linebacker Tommy Clark had six tackles and a sack to lead the Panthers' defense. Linebacker Grant Hollinger and defensive backs Hayden Vroom and Jaden Jones each had an interception.
"We played great defensively, but we've got to continue to address ball security," Santagata said. "We had three turnovers again. It's been our Achilles' heel. The good news is that two of the fumbles took place when they were fighting real hard to get extra yards. Still, we've got to clean that up."
Against Scioto, the Wolves were outgained 389-221 in total yards.
Quarterback Grayson Timms was 13-for-30 passing for 151 yards and two touchdowns, but was the victim of six dropped passes. He also led the team with 40 yards rushing on 12 carries. Running back Elijah Young had 26 yards rushing on 12 carries.
Linebacker Thomas Wilson had 21 tackles against the Irish and has 96 on the season. Linebacker Cole Dyer had 15 tackles and defensive back Ryan Wesolowski added 10.
"Kilbourne is coming off a loss to their rival and this is their homecoming game, so I'm sure they will be fired up and I expect that Vince will have those guys ready for us," Santagata said. "He's a great coach and we respect them greatly. They're probably going to throw a few wrinkles at us defensively and see how we pick things up."
Cardinals look to snap losing streak
Thomas will be looking to snap a four-game losing streak when it travels to Delaware on Friday, Oct. 13.
The Cardinals, who opened the season with three consecutive victories, fell to 3-4 overall and 0-4 in the OCC-Cardinal with the loss to Darby.
Delaware dropped to 2-5 overall and 0-3 in the league with a 34-13 loss to Dublin Jerome on Oct. 6.
Thomas lost to Jerome 33-32 on Sept. 29 when the Celtics scored a touchdown with 6 seconds left. The only other common opponent for the Cardinals and Pacers thus far is Kilbourne, which beat Thomas 26-25 in overtime on Sept. 15 and defeated Delaware 31-0 on Sept. 29.
Against Darby, the Cardinals were outgained 460-188 in total yards and scored one of their two touchdowns on defense, with linebacker Charlie Kneesi recovering a fumble in the end zone to pull Thomas to within 21-14 in the second quarter, just a minute after Khalil Jones scored on a 53-yard pass from quarterback Charlie Rhoades.
Darby, however, took a 31-14 lead into halftime and added two touchdowns in the second half.
Delaware has struggled offensively all season and is averaging 12.3 points. That average dips to 8.0 per game when a 38-8 victory over Washington Court House on Sept. 15 is excluded. Kael Gannon, the Pacers' projected starting quarterback, missed the first six games of the season with a shoulder injury suffered in a preseason scrimmage. He returned against Jerome in limited capacity, throwing one pass.
Running backs Blain McCormick and Isaiah Moore are Delaware's main rushing threats. Defensively, the Pacers have been led by Josiah Naegele and Moore at linebacker and lineman Glenn Pauley.