Hilliard Davidson football coach Brian White doesn't believe that Bradley should be judged by its record.
The Wildcats know they are in for a tussle when they visit Bradley on Friday, Sept. 13, despite the teams having opposite records.
Davidson enters the fifth matchup between the programs at 2-0, while Bradley is 0-2, having lost to Olentangy Orange 17-14 on Sept. 6 and Springfield 44-7 on Aug. 30.
"It's obvious when you turn on the film that they're a really good team," White said. "Bradley has lost to a 2-0 team in Olentangy Orange and a Springfield team that will be in the playoffs and will go a long way in the playoffs. They've lost to some really good teams and they have more returning starters than we do."
While the Jaguars are 0-2 for the first time since 2013 when they finished 6-4, the Wildcats are looking to start 3-0 from the second year in a row. Last season, Davidson started 4-0 and went on to advance to the Division I, Region 3 final, where it lost to Pickerington Central 20-13 to finish 11-2.
The teams split their first four meetings, with Davidson winning 17-10 a year ago to snap a two-game losing streak to the Jaguars. The Wildcats opened the series by winning 20-0 in 2015, but Bradley won 31-28 in 2016 and 28-10 in 2017.
Davidson is coming off a 30-14 come-from-behind win at Darby on Sept. 6. The Wildcats trailed 14-6 after three quarters before outscoring the Panthers 24-0 in the fourth quarter.
Sophomore running back Leo Nixon ran for 150 yards and four touchdowns on 28 carries to lead the Wildcats.
"Davidson looks like a typical Brian White-coached team," Bradley coach Mike LoParo said. "They're super disciplined and they don't make mistakes. They have a huge (offensive) line surge. They squeeze on defense. You almost can't believe it. I know they lost almost their entire offense and it just looks like a buzz saw. It looks exactly how it looks every year."
Bradley rallied from a 14-0 deficit against Orange to tie the game at 14 in the fourth quarter, but Jack Behre made a 30-yard field goal with 2 minutes, 16 seconds remaining and the Pioneers held on for the win.
Junior quarterback A.J. Mirgon led the Jaguars, passing for 157 yards and rushing for 86 yards. Ethan Poff had five catches for 80 yards, and Evan Yee rushed for 65 yards on 15 carries and scored both Bradley touchdowns.
"These first two games haven't been (losses) because of a lack of effort," Mirgon said. "It's just been executing and keeping the ball off the ground and everybody just doing their jobs."
After facing Darby's triple-option offense last week, Davidson has spent this week preparing for Bradley's spread attack.
"We have to clean up a lot of the mistakes that we're making defensively," White said. "Bradley is huge up front. Their front five on the offensive line are extremely big and we're going to have to figure out how to play with better technique and be able to take on those large guys that they have."
For LoParo and the Jaguars, containing Davidson's option attack is key.
"The Hilliard games are always fun and everybody is always ready to play in them," Mirgon said. "Davidson holds the ball a lot, so when he get the ball, we have to make sure that we put points on the board."
Davidson lost a key defensive player late in the game at Darby in senior lineman Bobby Smith, who suffered a knee injury. White said Smith would be evaluated early this week.
"We have so far to go and so many injuries right now and so many guys we have to plug in," White said. "That was what was really good (against Darby). We just had some guys step up in place of several positions where we don't have our starters and I don't know when we'll have them. Hopefully, we'll continue to get those guys back throughout the season and stop losing guys."
The Jaguars may receive a boost this week in the form of defensive end Chris Mayfield, a Michigan State commit who could return to the lineup after missing the first two games with a knee injury.