One thing stood out to Dublin Jerome football coach Bob Gecewich while watching film of his team's next opponent, Hilliard Darby: its defense.
"They are tough, physical and disciplined," said Gecewich, whose team will play host to the Panthers on Friday, Sept. 27, in an OCC-Cardinal Division contest. "It's one of the top programs in central Ohio. They're consistent. They're disciplined. They're one of those programs other teams should model themselves after."
Both teams enter the matchup at 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the OCC-Cardinal and are coming off wins over rivals. Darby, which is allowing an average of 14.3 points, defeated Hilliard Bradley 13-7 in its league opener Sept. 20. That same night, Jerome opened league play with a 25-17 win over Dublin Scioto.
"We pride ourselves on defense," Panthers coach John Santagata said. "Defense is what we're all about and it has been forever. I'm really proud with how they played (Sept. 20)."
Quarterback Ryan Miller led the Celtics against Scioto, rushing for 165 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries and completing five of 12 passes for 55 yards and three touchdowns with one interception.
Adam Booth added 94 yards rushing on 23 carries for Jerome, which bounced back from a 31-14 loss to Dublin Coffman on Sept. 13.
"It was a hard-fought win," Gecewich said.
Jerome limited Scioto to just one first down in the second half and outgained the Irish 344-177 in total yards, amassing 289 yards on the ground.
"Jerome has a really good quarterback," Santagata said. "They throw the ball well, so obviously our defense is going to have another big challenge this week. They throw the ball quite a bit and they run the ball. It's a spread attack. They do a good job of distributing the ball in the passing game."
Gecewich credited the offensive line for leading the ground attack against Scioto.
"Those guys are taking care of business up front," he said.
Darby's defense limited Bradley to 215 total yards and 11 first downs.
"The kids were pretty excited," Santagata said. "We try to not get too excited for any game. Sometimes emotions can get too high and I thought our kids handled it well. The kids stayed emotionally steady throughout the game."
Connor Jones led the Panthers' triple-option attack with 119 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 19 carries. SeVeon Stewart added 57 yards on 11 carries and quarterback Jack Stultz rushed for 49 yards on 14 carries.
For the season, Jones has rushed for 286 yards and five touchdowns on 47 carries.
"One of our goals is to compete to win the league and getting this first game (against Bradley) is huge," said Santagata, whose team did not attempt any passes against the Jaguars. "Jerome won (Sept. 20), so it's going to be a big game."
Led by its defense, Darby defeated Jerome 13-7 last season. The Panthers lead the all-time series 9-2, with the Celtics' wins coming in 2017 (21-0) and 2016 (20-17).