The Canal Winchester football coaching staff might have been exhausted after a long day of film study Nov. 3, but they left the locker room excited for their next challenge.
Making a return to the playoffs after a one-year absence, the sixth-seeded Indians will visit third-seeded Harrison in the first round of the Division II, Region 8 playoffs Friday, Nov. 8.
"They are unlike anybody we've seen all year," coach Josh Stratton said. "We haven't seen teams that play 100 percent man-to-man defense, but they do. We haven't seen teams that throw the ball 45 times a game and they do. It will be fun. I think we have the skill to attack that look and compete with them. We just haven't seen much of what they do this year. We've seen teams who run the wing-T and emphasize running the ball."
Both teams are 9-1.
The Indians wrapped up the regular season Nov. 1 with a 28-13 win at Big Walnut as quarterback Jack Beeler completed nine of 16 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns and running Stephan Byrd had 23 carries for 176 yards and two touchdowns.
Canal Winchester, which is making its ninth playoff appearance, went 4-1 in the OCC-Capital Division to share the league championship with Groveport and New Albany.
That same night, Harrison defeated Cincinnati Northwest 49-0 to wrap up its fourth consecutive playoff berth and 13th overall. Quarterback Connor Kinnett completed 21 of 29 passes for 396 yards and five touchdowns and running back Cam Hering added 12 carries for 91 yards and two scores.
On the season, Hering has rushed for 632 yards and nine touchdowns and has caught 38 passes for 474 yards and three scores.
Wide receivers Levi Tidwell (69 catches, 1,289 yards, 13 TDs) and C.J. Young (49 catches, 908 yards, 3 TDs) were the top two receivers in the Southwest Ohio Conference this season.
Over the last two seasons, Kinnett has completed 365 of 529 passes for 5,628 yards and 54 touchdowns with 11 interceptions.
"We've given Connor time to throw the ball. We've been able to run the ball with more success, but offensively, it's been the fact that we've been able to keep Connor upright and we haven't had any pressure in his face," Harrison coach Derek Rehage told WCPO-TV earlier this season.
"We knew going in (to this season) that we had over 20 seniors, which I think is the biggest senior class we've had since 1988 here. I didn't know we'd be this good defensively. Our leadership has been phenomenal."
Linebacker Jake Reardon has 112 tackles and three sacks to lead a senior-laden defense that has allowed 73 points.
"Team speed is the No. 1 thing with their defense. They aren't huge, but they're fast. Offensively, they step back and sling it," Stratton said, adding that his defense is eager to prove its pass-rushing abilities. "We have a Division I guy on our defense, (lineman and Youngs-town State commit) Hunter Allen, and pass rushing might be his No. 1 skill. He just hasn't had the chance to show it."
Beeler has completed 96 of 167 passes for 1,363 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions. Byrd has 1,372 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns on 198 carries and eight catches for 206 yards and two scores.
Tyler Toledo has 38 carries for 422 yards and five touchdowns and 25 catches for 329 yards and four scores.
The first-round winner will play second-seeded Cincinnati Turpin or seventh-seeded DeSales in a regional semifinal Nov. 15 at a neutral site.
The Indians are seeking their first playoff win since 2012, when they defeated Zanesville in a Region 7 first-round game before losing to Marion-Franklin in a regional semifinal.