As it prepares to play host to Pickerington Central on Friday, Oct. 19, the Reynoldsburg High School football team won't rehash the recent results between the programs.
The way coach Buddy White sees it, the fact that the Tigers have beaten the Raiders in each of the past 16 seasons isn't relevant to this year's matchup.
"One thing we emphasize and are going to continue to emphasize is that nothing that has happened in the past is going to have any bearing on what happens in this game," White said. "We know that and the players know that. It's about how we prepare, how we block and tackle. We haven't had a lot of success against (Central), and it kind of takes the luster off of the rivalry. We've had some very close games with them in the past, but Pick Central is a winning program that knows how to win and is very resilient. We have to keep matching their level of intensity."
Focusing on "the here and now," as White calls it, hasn't been difficult because of how much maturity he has seen throughout his team this season.
Both teams are 7-1 overall and 2-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division, with the winner hoping to stay in league title contention. Lancaster is 5-3 overall but 3-0 in the league.
The Raiders lead Division I, Region 2 in computer points and the Tigers have the second-most points in Division I, Region 3. The winning team figures to wrap up a first-round home playoff game.
The closest Reynoldsburg has come to beating Central was in 2012; the Tigers won 21-20 as both teams finished 7-3.
This fall, both teams lost their only game Oct. 5 when the Raiders fell at Gahanna 10-7 and Central was edged by Lancaster 31-30.
Reynoldsburg is coming off a 43-7 victory over Grove City on Oct. 12 and the Tigers beat Pickerington North 16-7 the same night.
"It's going to be a great OCC-Ohio race, there's no doubt about it," Tigers coach Jay Sharrett said. "The team that comes out of Region 3 or Region 2 is going to be very sound at football, but the problem is that we have to beat each other up to get there. When you play in a division like we do, you have to be sharp offensively, defensively and on special teams every week. Against Lancaster we weren't sharp. We had an extra point blocked, gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown and did things we don't usually do. We beat a very good Pickerington North team and now it's on to Reynoldsburg."
The Tigers were held to 171 yards of offense against the Panthers but got senior running back Jamir Jackson back after he missed the Lancaster game with an injury. He is the leading rusher with 455 yards and six touchdowns.
Reynoldsburg, meanwhile, had three of its top players, Mershawn Rice (WR/DB), Ke'Shun Moorer (LB) and Courtland Bullard (RB/DB), sit out against Grove City to help them get healthier heading into the matchup with Central.
Against the Dawgs, quarterback Michael Whatley completed 10 of 15 passes for 118 yards with one touchdown, J'Vonte Edwards had 13 carries for 81 yards and one touchdown and Guy Cowans-Wright had 11 carries for 61 yards and two scores.
Cocy Goff added 50 yards on eight carries and Dijon Jennings ran for a touchdown.
Shon Strickland led the receiving corps with four catches for 69 yards and one score.
"Our kids played very physical, and that was one of the things we emphasized," White said. "Guys stepped in and showed the kind of depth we have."
Against North, Terry Simuel returned the opening kickoff 79 yards for a touchdown to set the tone. Quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw attempted just five passes but rushed 19 times for 48 yards, and DeWayne Carter had 54 yards rushing on three carries.
Defensive back Lorenzo Styles and linebacker Isaiah O'Conner helped key a defense that limited North quarterback Mike Lowery, who entered with 2,000 yards passing on the season, to 12-for-27 for just 47 yards.
"Both (Reynoldsburg and Central) have defenses that we're proud of," White said. "Obviously we live by similar philosophies that defense is where you win championships. I like the way their defense is playing and our defense is playing. Defenses are going to have a lot to do with this matchup."