Despite their teams being rivals, Hilliard Davidson High School football coach Brian White and his counterpart at Darby, John Santagata, have developed a solid relationship over the years, in large part because of the respect they have for each other.
The Wildcats and Panthers will continue their rivalry Friday, Aug. 31, at Davidson, with both teams coming off a Week 1 victory.
On Aug. 24, Darby held off host Olentangy 17-14 and visiting Davidson dominated Grove City 31-0.
"Our staff and Darby's staff have become pretty good friends and I like coach Santagata and the reason I like him is because he does it the right way," White said. "Like so many teams nowadays, he doesn't rely on transfers into his program. We try to exhibit good character and teach our kids lifelong lessons that will help them beyond football."
"I have a ton of respect for Brian White and all the coaches over there," Santagata said. "He's done a fantastic job. ... I view him as a personal friend. It's a different sort of thing than any other game."
Davidson leads the all-time series 7-4, but the Panthers have won two of the past three meetings, including last season when they won 9-6 in overtime. The last four contests have been decided by five points or fewer.
"I had a guy from (Darby) text me and tell me they're coming for us," Wildcats running back Christian Sweet said. "It's a fun game. This is one of the best games of the year."
"Darby-Davidson game is a classic," Panthers senior running back and defensive lineman Grant Hollinger said. "A lot of people come out (to watch) and it's just an exciting game overall. We pretty much know what they're doing to do (and) they know what we're going to do. It's pretty much just the tougher team and the one who makes the fewer mistakes (that) is going to win that game."
The teams have similar offensive schemes, as both run a triple-option offense. But while their offenses might appear to be identical, White said there are some differences.
"We do some different things, but we both try to run the option," White said. "They're a better option team than what we are and we have maybe a little bit better power-run game."
Jordan Hicks led Davidson's offense against Grove City, rushing for 111 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries.
Like most games, Davidson limited its passing against the Dawgs, but was effective as Carson Felicetty completed two of three passes for 95 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown to Evan Tekancic in the third quarter.
The Wildcats rushed for 283 yards while limiting Grove City to 121 total yards.
"They do some different things than we do and vice versa," Santagata said. "They're always a challenge to prepare for."
Darby was outgained by Olentangy 452-314 in total yards, but managed to hold on for the win.
Sophomore Connor Jones rushed for 187 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries as the Panthers produced 245 yards on the ground.
"We have to make major improvements over what we did (Aug. 24)," Santagata said. "When we play Davidson, it comes down to mistakes, and they make very few and we have to make less than them in every phase of the game to even be in the game."