There might be more at stake in the 31st meeting between the Canal Winchester and Groveport Madison football teams than in any of the previous 30.
The Indians will visit Groveport on Friday, Oct. 11, for an OCC-Capital Division contest with a 15-game winning streak dating to last season and, at 6-0, are in good position to make the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.
At 5-1, the Cruisers -- who are looking for their first postseason berth since 2007 -- are off to their best start since winning five of their first six games in 2010.
Both teams won their OCC-Capital openers Oct. 4, with Canal Winchester defeating visiting New Albany 41-27 and Groveport routing host Franklin Heights 61-7.
The Indians were projected to be third in Division II, Region 8 this week, and Groveport was projected to be fourth in Division I, Region 3. The top eight teams in each region make the playoffs.
"It's a backyard brawl," Canal Winchester coach Josh Stratton said. "We look forward to it and I am sure they do, too. It's always important no matter the records, but this is a big game for both of us."
Groveport holds a 17-13 lead in the all-time series but has lost two consecutive games to the Indians, 14-7 last year and 24-7 in 2017.
Canal Winchester amassed 437 yards of offense against New Albany. Quarterback Jack Beeler completed 12 of 18 passes for 242 yards and three touchdowns, running back Stephan Byrd had 176 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries and Andre Heglar, Avery Musick and Tyler Toledo each had one receiving touchdown.
"They've won 15 straight games and they do everything well," Groveport coach Bryan Schoonover said. "They have a great kicking game. Offensively, they have big playmakers across the board. They look similar to Pickerington Central and Olentangy Liberty in that respect, that they have great athletes across the board. They put you in tight spots and make you work to make plays."
The Cruisers rushed for 357 yards against Franklin Heights. Jashaun McGraw had six carries for 55 yards and two touchdowns and Emmanuel Anthony and Te'ron Coleman each added a rushing touchdown.
Ryan Burke also caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Colin Rice as Groveport enjoyed its highest-scoring game since a 76-7 win over Newark on Oct. 2, 2009.
"The bottom line is, this game will come down to who wins the turnover battle," Stratton said. "Their defensive line is big, mean and fast and they have speed. They have depth on their interior line, too. Their linebackers can run. They're better up front both ways than they were last year. We must play well and we must be clean. We can't commit penalties and hurt ourselves."
Although the Indians and Cruisers are being realigned into different OCC divisions beginning next year, the teams are scheduled to open next season against each other at Groveport.
"There's a lot of excitement for the fans and community (this week), but we're just preparing from day to day," Schoonover said. "We're just trying to prepare for what's going to win us the game on Friday night. That's a difficult task."