Since losing its first two games by a combined four points, the Northland High School football team has attempted to live by a simple mentality.
"We've got to take care of us," coach Brian Staats said.
That approach has paid off.
The Vikings extended their winning streak to seven games and improved to 7-2 overall and 5-0 in the City League-North Division with a 14-0 win over East on Oct. 19.
Northland has clinched at least a share of the league championship after sharing the title with Mifflin and Beechcroft last season.
A win Friday, Oct. 26, at home against the Cougars would give Northland the outright league championship.
Even with a victory over Beechcroft, the Vikings likely will need a lot of help to make the playoffs in the stacked Division II, Region 7, which featured 14 teams with six or more wins through Week 8.
"What we have to guard against is getting complacent, getting sloppy and we've tried to talk to them about establishing a level of play and playing at our level or better, not somebody else's," Staats said.
Northland's only previous playoff appearances were in 2010 and '13 when it went 8-2 during both regular seasons.
The Vikings picked up a quality win Sept. 7 when they defeated Granville 28-21. The Blue Aces are 8-1 and battling for a Division III, Region 11 playoff spot.
Northland's other non-league win was over Dayton Ponitz 43-8 on Oct. 12, but the Golden Panthers are just 1-8.
While senior running back John Branham Jr. and junior quarterback Kalil Branham have continued to lead Northland's offense, Beechcroft's offense also has taken steps forward.
In a 19-0 win over Whetstone on Oct. 12, junior quarterback DeShannon Butler threw touchdown passes of 63 and 30 yards to junior wide receiver Davon Wooden during a second quarter in which the Cougars scored all of their points. Senior wide receiver Elijah Hairston also has developed into a key offensive threat.
Beechcroft has won five in a row and is 6-3 overall and 4-1 in the City-North after beating Linden-McKinley 20-0 on Oct. 19. The Cougars' last loss was to Mifflin, 12-7 on Sept. 14.
Although mathematically alive, Beechcroft unlikely will make the Division III, Region 11 playoffs.
Close wins over East (15-12 on Sept. 21) and Centennial (30-25 on Oct. 5) have kept the Cougars in the league title race.
"The big thing is, I want to see them play to their potential," Beechcroft coach Charles Gibson said.
"We've been playing down to the same level of our competition.
"The one game we didn't play at the same level was Dayton Meadowdale, and (we won) 33-0 (on Sept. 28)."
Warriors among City teams in playoff hunt
The Eastmoor Academy football team will clinch a Division III, Region 11 playoff berth with a win Friday, Oct. 26, at Africentric.
The Warriors improved to 8-1 overall and 5-0 in the City-South with a 65-0 win over Briggs on Oct. 19.
Their only loss came against Westerville Central, 55-24 on Oct. 7. The Warhawks are 5-4 and are contending for a Division I, Region 2 playoff berth.
Running back Savon Edwards had rushed for 1,104 yards and 21 touchdowns through eight games.
Quarterback Marquise Laster and running backs Miicah Coleman and Cameron Long have been other offensive standouts for Eastmoor, which is looking to make the postseason for the second time in three seasons.
The last time the Warriors won a playoff game was in 2011 when they were Division III, Region 10 runners-up.
Also in playoff contention entering Week 10 are Walnut Ridge in Division II, Region 7 and Marion-Franklin in Division III, Region 11.
The Scots are 8-1 and 5-1 and the Red Devils are 6-3 and 4-2.
On Friday, Oct. 26, Marion-Franklin plays host to South, which is 6-3 and 3-3 , and Walnut Ridge visits Independence, which is 5-4 and 4-2.
City runners open postseason
The Divisions I, II and III district cross country meets were held Oct. 20 at Hilliard Darby.
Eastmoor Academy senior Bushra Bonkiye was runner-up (16 minutes, 29.8 seconds) in the Division II, district 1 boys race to advance to the regional Saturday, Oct. 27, at Pickerington North.
In the Division III, district 2 boys race, International's Yacouba Harane finished ninth (17:27.5) to also move on to regional.
At regional, the top 28 individuals in the Division II boys race advance to the state meet Nov. 3 at National Trail Raceway. In Division III, the top 20 individuals qualify for state.