Pickerington Central football coach Jay Sharrett was looking forward to having more of what he calls "normal" preparation time for its Week 3 matchup.
After flying to Georgia, where they beat Winter Park (Florida) 34-21 on Aug. 30 in the Atlanta Freedom Bowl, the Tigers took a four-hour bus ride to Indiana, where they beat Columbus (Indiana) East 20-14 on Sept. 6.
Central will play its third consecutive out-of-state opponent in Naperville (Illinois) Central on Friday, Sept. 13, but at least it will do so on a new grass field at Tiger Stadium.
As was the case with Winter Park and Columbus East, the Tigers will be facing Naperville Central for the first time.
"I could tell last week that the guys were tired, so this week we want to get our legs back and make sure we keep it light and fresh because this will be another physical game," Sharrett said. "We drove to Columbus East, which is a very good team, and when we got there, we did about 10 jumping jacks and started playing football. This week, we're sleeping in our own beds. Senior night is this week. It's going to be nice."
The Tigers are 2-0 and the Redhawks are 0-2, but Sharrett isn't expecting a mismatch.
Naperville Central, which is located more than six hour away from Pickerington, also lost its first two games last season before recovering to finish 7-4.
The Redhawks' strength appears to be their athleticism, including the move-in of senior wide receiver Jadon Thompson, who had 49 receptions for 731 yards and 10 touchdowns last season while helping Chicago Marist go 11-2.
Junior Sam Jackson is a Minnesota commit who had 49 receptions for 800 yards and 14 scores last season but has moved from wide receiver to quarterback, and wide receiver Reggie Fleurima is considered one of the state's top sophomores.
Naperville Central is 95-50 in 14 seasons under coach Mike Stine, including 17-9 in playoff games.
Through two games for the Tigers, running back Nick Mosley has 38 carries for 207 yards and three touchdowns and also has a receiving score, running back Sirron Smith has 20 carries for 120 yards, quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw is 20-for-27 passing for 151 yards and two touchdowns and has 34 carries for 140 yards and three scores and Lorenzo Styles Jr. has eight catches for 51 yards.
Linebackers Dom Marasco and Ty Hamilton have led the defense with 23 and 18 tackles, respectively.
"The atmosphere at Columbus East was second to none," Sharrett said. "They fired off fireworks. It was good for our kids to see how that community gets behind their football team. It was a first-class situation and our guys responded very well.
"Naperville Central is a huge school and they put scholarship kids in big Division I (college) programs every year. I knew (Stine) had a good football team when he was willing to travel here. They're 0-2 right now by schedule, but not by ability. They run the ball, they've got a really good quarterback that can move and move in the pocket, so they're very diversified. Defensively, they don't miss tackles."