Bragging rights in the community, along with an early season advantage in Division I, Region 3 computer points, will be on the line when the Hilliard Darby football team plays host to Davidson on Friday, Sept. 6.

The Wildcats lead the all-time series 8-4, including a 14-0 win last season.

"The kids get excited anytime we go against Davidson," Panthers coach John Santagata said. "We've been doing this since 2007, so motivation for either team won't be lacking."

Santagata and Davidson coach Brian White have developed a friendship over the years and share similar coaching philosophies, as both teams' game plans rely on a ground-oriented, option-based offense and a solid, physical defense.

"They're a running football team and we like to do the same, so I think both of us know what we're getting into," Santagata said. "We have nothing but respect for Brian White and all the coaches over there. We view him as a friend."

Both teams are coming off season-opening wins. On Aug. 30, Darby defeated Olentangy 23-13 and Davidson shut out Grove City 27-0.

Connor Jones led the Panthers, rushing for 133 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. Darby finished with 288 yards rushing and dominated time of possession by holding the ball for nearly 31 minutes.

"(The) game (against Davidson) is probably going to be one of the biggest games, along with Bradley," Jones said. "This week, we're going to have to sit down, face it all, practice hard and work on everything that we made mistakes on (Aug. 30)."

White knows that containing Jones and Darby's ground game will be keys to his team's chances.

"Everything that I keep reading says that Darby is really good this year," White said. "I know the fullback that they have back from last year, Conner Jones, who also is playing some linebacker, he's really good. ... They have several returning starters and obviously a team that's been to the playoffs the last couple of years and a team like us that plays a hard-nosed style of football where they're going to come right you."

Davidson had three running backs rush for more than 50 yards against Grove City. Kristopher Thornton gained 64 yards on 15 carries, Johnny Weir ran for 62 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries and Leo Nixon rushed for 54 yards and a score on 16 carries.

"We had three kids rush for over 50 yards and that's not a bad thing in an option offense," White said. "Rather than have one guy rush for 150, if we can have three guys rush for 50 each, that's a little bit better. Two of the 50-yard rushers were sophomores (Nixon and Weir), so hopefully they'll keep getting better now that they've seen themselves on film."

The Wildcats totaled 227 yards rushing against the Dawgs and did not attempt a pass.

Davidson senior defensive lineman Bobby Smith is looking forward to his final regular-season game against the Panthers.

"The Darby game is a very different game," Smith said. "It's a lot more physical. They're an excellent program and the game goes by so fast. It's just running the ball. We're trying to pound it down their throats and they're trying to pound it down ours. It's a different setting. They're good at what they do."

Both teams will face Bradley in the coming weeks in what has become a three-team rivalry. Davidson visits the Jaguars on Sept. 13 and Darby plays host to Bradley on Sept. 20 in its OCC-Cardinal Division opener.

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