The Olentangy High School football team has a lot to play for Friday, Oct. 26, at Westerville Central, and only part of what is at stake is within the Braves' control.
A win would guarantee Olentangy at least a share of the OCC-Buckeye Division championship, its first league title since winning the OCC-Capital in 2014 and 2015. The Braves, Liberty and Orange all are 3-1 in the league.
Also at stake is a possible playoff berth in Division II, Region 8. Olentangy, which is 4-5 overall, was projected to be 11th in the region this week as the top eight teams make the postseason.
"We have a meaningful game to play in Week 10 and that's what you want," coach Mark Solis said. "If the chips fall the right way, we could even sneak into the playoffs. Frankly, that would be rather remarkable. I've said it a lot this year that our record makes it look like we're a bad team, but we're not."
Olentangy bounced back from a 21-14 loss at Liberty on Oct. 12 with a 42-14 rout of visiting Westerville North on Oct. 19. The Braves rolled up 490 yards of offense as quarterback Connor Haag completed 10 of 16 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns and wide receiver Caden Kaiser caught four passes for 134 yards and three scores.
Running backs Zach Shiblaq and Trevor Solis and running back/wide receiver Luke Riedel each had a rushing touchdown.
Central improved to 5-4 overall and 2-2 in the OCC-Buckeye with a 35-23 win over Westerville South on Oct. 18. The Warhawks were projected to be sixth in Division I, Region 2 this week.
Rickey Hyatt ran for 151 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries against South and had two interceptions. Quarterback LaBronz Davis II threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Jace Jarvis in the fourth quarter to put Central ahead for good at 21-17.
Senior Dontay Hunter II, who committed to Purdue in June, anchors the defense at an end spot.
"They've had a challenging schedule like we have. It's going to be a battle," Solis said. "They'll try to spread you out and sprinkle the ball out on the perimeter. We must do a good job of tackling."
Olentangy leads the all-time series 5-3, including a 35-31 win last year to secure a playoff berth and eliminate Central.
The game will mark a homecoming of sorts for Braves assistant coaches Jeremy Chirpas, Dave Dunkelberger and John Magistro.
Magistro was 61-37 in nine seasons as Central's head coach but stepped down after the 2017 season. He has been coaching linebackers for the Braves, and former Warhawks assistants Chirpas and Dunkelberger have been working with the defensive line and defensive backs, respectively.