Having an opening in Week 3 and willing to take on a program much bigger in size, the Hartley football team put together a two-year agreement to play Gahanna.

The fact that the programs haven't met for more than 40 years adds to the intrigue of their matchup Friday, Sept. 13, at Hartley.

The Hawks, a Division III team, entered the contest at 2-0, while the Division I Lions are 0-2.

"We always want to see how we stack up against the best teams," Hartley coach Brad Burchfield said. "Gahanna is a perennial playoff contender in Division I and it's time to see how we stack up against the upper echelon of the OCC. I think (Gahanna) coach (Bruce) Ward and I both thought that both communities would be excited about this game and both communities would love to embrace this. A game like this creates a ton of interest locally, but more importantly, it creates a buzz among the student bodies of the schools and that kind of excitement is priceless."

According to Hartley records, the Lions hold a 4-2 lead in the all-time series, but all of the matchups were held between 1969-74.

That's two seasons before Gahanna was the 1976 Division I state runner-up and well before Hartley emerged to win three of its four state titles under Burchfield.

While the Hawks have made nine consecutive playoff appearances, the Lions have been to the postseason in four of Ward's five seasons as coach.

Hartley opened Aug. 30 with a 34-13 win over Erial (New Jersey) Timber Creek and blew past Wheelersburg 44-6 on Sept. 6, while Gahanna lost to Cincinnati Elder 41-6 in its opener Aug. 30 and fell to Dublin Coffman 45-20 on Sept. 6.

"There are certain teams that it doesn't matter what division they play in, they can play football, and Hartley is one of them," Ward said. "They've had two impressive wins. I'm from Portsmouth, and to go down to Wheelersburg, that 'river ball' down there, Wheelersburg won state a couple years ago (in Division V) and is a good program. To make that trip down there and (score) 44, that's impressive."

Gahanna quarterback Will Thomas completed 16 of 34 passes for 179 yards with two touchdowns and one interception but didn't finish the game because of a minor injury and was replaced by Trey Burger.

Thomas is expected to be available against Hartley.

Travis Whittaker rushed 14 times for 29 yards and one touchdown and added four receptions for 38 yards and one score for the Lions, while Cam Morris had six catches for 79 yards and one touchdown.

"Our offense took steps," Ward said. "Coffman's got good athletes. Our struggle is still just defensively. We're just young on that side of the ball, especially on the back end of the defense."

Hartley built a 30-0 lead by halftime against Wheelersburg.

Quarterback Miles Fleming and running back Jalan January each ran for two touchdowns and Marcelis Parker and Tajai Burns had one touchdown run apiece.

"I really don't know what to expect," Burchfield said. "I've seen (Gahanna) a couple times and they are very good and very well-coached. I'm so very impressed with their quarterback. You can tell he has a veteran presence and is a playmaker. It will be a tremendous challenge for us."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek