Having won at least a share of 11 consecutive league championships, the Pickerington High School Central football team enters every game expecting to get its opponent's best effort.
That should be true again Friday, Oct. 20, when the Tigers play host to Reynoldsburg, which is still in the race for both a Division I, Region 3 playoff berth and the OCC-Ohio Division championship along with Central.
"This is the game we've been working our butts off for," Raiders coach Buddy White said. "Everything is right in front of us. This is something we've talked about since the winter that we want to be in position to win the conference championship and make the playoffs."
Reynoldsburg is 6-2 overall and 2-1 in the league after beating Grove City 27-7 on Oct. 13, while Central improved to 7-1 and 3-0 with a 24-21 victory Oct. 13 at Pickerington North.
The Tigers are 10-3 all-time against the Panthers, including winning the last five meetings.
The Reynoldsburg-Central matchup goes back much further.
The programs have met every year since 1981, and the Tigers have won the last 16 meetings.
In this week's Region 3 computer ratings, Central and Reynoldsburg were projected to be third and ninth, respectively.
There are 13 teams in the region competing for the eight playoff spots, but a win over the Tigers would solidify the Raiders' bid significantly. Reynoldsburg has beaten two teams with 5-3 records, but two of its other victories came over teams that are just 1-7.
Central's best victories have come against North, which is 6-2 overall and 2-1 in the league, and Detroit Cass Tech, which lost to the Tigers 24-21 on Aug. 24 at the University of Toledo and is 6-2.
Central's only loss came against Trotwood-Madison, 28-19 on Sept. 8. The Rams are 8-0 and were projected to be first in Division III, Region 12 this week.
"I couldn't be happier," Tigers coach Jay Sharrett said. "(We're) 7-1 and 3-0, and we've played a lot of tough teams in that span. There haven't been many gimmes."
The quarterbacks of both the Raiders and Tigers are coming off strong performances.
Against Grove City, Reynoldsburg senior Justin Henry completed 16 of 30 passes for 282 yards and two touchdown. Princeton Hoskins had four catches for 76 yards, Mershawn Rice had four receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown and Camby Goff added two catches for 53 yards and one score.
The Raiders' offense will face a Central defense that allowed 374 total yards to North as Panthers quarterback Jimmy Weirick was 17-for-41 passing for 239 yards. Weirick passed for two touchdowns but threw incomplete into the end zone twice on the game's final possession.
Reynoldsburg will look for a better rushing performance than it had a week ago when it was held to 3.6 yards per carry by Grove City.
"Truth be told, I don't think we've peaked yet," White said. "We want to have that one game where we play a clean game with a limited number of penalties. (Henry) had a real good day."
Central sophomore quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw rushed 19 times for 144 yards, including a 74-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage against North.
He also completed five of 15 passes for 110 yards, with touchdown passes of 51 yards to Tristan Peppers and 44 yards to Xavier Henderson. On the season, Crenshaw is 54-for-104 passing for 896 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions and has rushed for 642 yards and eight scores.
Running back Jamir Jackson has 480 yards and nine touchdowns on 89 carries and tight end Trenton Gillison leads the Tigers' receiving corps with 11 catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns.
"(Crenshaw) can throw the ball 70 yards in the air but can power run for 6 yards when you need it," Sharrett said. "He's the most unselfish, well-raised kid, and he does it for that senior class. I can't say enough about him."