No matter the records or stakes, the Dublin Coffman and Upper Arlington high school football teams always seem to play close games in what has been the regular-season finale for both since 2008.
Their past five meetings have been decided by an average of 4.8 points and neither team has won by double digits since a 27-9 Golden Bears win in 2010.
"Most of these games have come down to the wire and it's a great question as to why. That's just how it is," Shamrocks coach Mark Crabtree said. "A lot of times, there's a lot on the line. The biggest thing we can hope to do is continue to get better and get off to a fast start."
The Shamrocks and Bears come into their latest meeting Friday, Oct. 26, at Coffman tied for second in the OCC-Central Division at 3-1, one game behind Hilliard Davidson (4-0), but a more important goal for both teams is playoff positioning.
Coffman, which is 8-1 overall, was projected to be second in Division I, Region 2 this week and likely would clinch a first-round home game with a win. The Shamrocks will be in the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season and 18th time overall.
UA was projected to be eighth in the region, holding the final playoff spot by 1.3 points ahead of ninth-place Toledo Start, and needs a win to ensure its first postseason appearance since 2015.
The Bears overcame adversity off the field last week to defeat Central Crossing 24-7 on Oct. 19 and improve to 5-4 overall. Coach Joel Cutler was placed on administrative leave two days earlier while the handling of health and wellness issues involving players is investigated by school officials.
Assistant coach Barry Fox was named interim head coach. He has been a head coach at Bowling Green, Findlay and Newark and has helped coach wide receivers for Cutler the last two seasons while also working with the freshman team.
UA held Central Crossing to 44 yards rushing, continuing a trend of strong play by its defense. The unit has allowed two touchdowns in the past four games.
"We're trying to establish an identity," Fox said. "We have strong defensive linemen and good running backs. We just want to bang it, bang it until it works out for us. We play good defense and have controlled the ball well. It's very simple."
Running back Eli D'Herete rushed for 88 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries and running back Chris Schweisthal, seeing his first action since Sept. 30 because of a concussion, had 19 carries for 84 yards and a score.
Coffman piled up 514 yards of offense in a 51-6 win at Westland on Oct. 19. Quarterback Ethan Brown completed 14 of 22 passes for 299 yards and four touchdowns, three of which went to Jameel Williamson. The wide receiver finished with seven catches for 199 yards as the Shamrocks led 24-0 after the first quarter.
"To be honest, that's really the first time all year we've gotten off to a fast start, all year no matter who we've played. It felt good," Crabtree said. "We'd like to have one this week. This is a pretty typical UA team in terms of what we're used to seeing. They have a great offensive line and fast kids to account for at the skill positions. They'll try to spread us out."
UA has lost five consecutive games to Coffman but still leads the all-time series 12-10.
"We're ready to go," Fox said. "In terms of having to step in for coach Cutler, my biggest wish is he is on the sideline (Oct. 26)."