During Week 3 of the 2007 season, the Pickerington Central football team's defense stopped a Groveport sophomore running back for no gain on fourth-and-3 in the second overtime and went on to a 15-9 victory.

The Cruisers' young budding superstar that season was Le'Veon Bell, who went on to play for Michigan State and has more than 5,000 career yards rushing in five-plus seasons in the NFL.

That the matchup between the teams was so tight that season was an anomaly considering what has occurred throughout a long history between the programs.

Central and Groveport have faced each other 37 times, with the Tigers winning the past 28 meetings.

Both teams are 3-0 entering their matchup Friday, Sept. 20, at Groveport. The Cruisers went 0-10 in 2017 but improved to 5-5 last year and have won six of their last eight games dating to last season.

Groveport is refusing to look at the big picture of what figures to be a challenging stretch that includes games Sept. 27 at Olentangy Liberty and Oct. 11 at home against Canal Winchester, both of which also are 3-0.

"We just talk about doing your job to the point where the guys might get sick of hearing it," Cruisers coach Bryan Schoonover said. "We're not talking about next week and beyond. We just talk about what we need to do to get better. That's one thing that keeps you grounded. Anytime people start looking ahead, emotions get involved and one thing these guys do well is (knowing) if it's Monday, it's Monday and we work on that (and) so on and so forth. We prep each day and when we get to Friday, we are totally locked in on what we have to do."

Central was challenged in its 20-14 victory over Columbus (Indiana) East on Sept. 6 but dominated visiting Naperville (Illinois) Central 49-28 on Sept. 13 in its home opener on a newly sodded field.

"It's the same stadium, but we stripped it and we put in thick Bermuda grass," coach Jay Sharrett said.

Central looked at home against the RedHawks, finishing with 540 yards of offense as Nick Mosley rushed 23 times for 239 yards and three touchdowns, Demeatric Crenshaw completed 10 of 13 passes for 238 yards and three touchdowns and Lorenzo Styles Jr. reeled in six catches for 146 yards and two scores.

On the season, Mosley has 446 yards rushing and six touchdowns and Crenshaw is 30-for-40 passing for 389 yards and four scores.

The Tigers allowed 463 yards of offense against Naperville Central, including 323 through the air, but they likely will have their run defense tested more by Groveport.

JaShaun McGraw had 25 carries for 133 yards and one touchdown, Emmanuel Anthony rushed 12 times for 58 yards and one score and Jalil Underdown added 11 carries for 139 yards and two scores in the Cruisers' 41-14 win over Worthington Kilbourne on Sept. 13 as Groveport attempted just five passes.

The Cruisers' first three opponents are a combined 1-8.

Dom Marasco had 11 tackles and Garner Wallace and Styles Jr. each had one interception to lead the Tigers' defense against Naperville Central.

"Dom has played really well," Sharrett said. "Garner, our free safety, has played really solid. We've played good, fundamentally solid defense."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek