Creating an element of surprise will be a difficult challenge for both the Reynoldsburg and Pickerington Central football teams when they meet Friday, Nov. 8, in the first round of the Division I, Region 3 playoffs.
That doesn't mean that the host and second-seeded Tigers and the seventh-seeded Raiders won't try to do so when they face each other for the second time in three weeks.
On Oct. 25, Central defeated Reynoldsburg 40-14 on its way to winning the OCC-Ohio Division championship.
The Tigers, who have won at least a share of 12 league titles in the last 13 seasons, are 9-1 overall and finished 5-0 in the OCC-Ohio. The Raiders are 7-3 and finished 2-3 in the league.
"We're going to have a whole different game plan than the one we had against them the last time," Reynoldsburg coach Buddy White said. "They were much more physical than us. You can't judge the physicality of a team until you get out there. We wanted to do some things like we did last year (in a 24-21 win over Central) and we realized we're not the same team as last year and neither are they."
Both teams are coming off blowout wins in Week 10.
Central junior running back Nick Mosley rested but is expected to be available for the playoff opener.
In his place, Sirron Smith rushed 18 times for 203 yards and four touchdowns and quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw had 10 carries for 66 yards and two touchdowns and was 5-for-8 passing for 62 yards in the visiting Tigers' 42-6 victory over Grove City on Nov. 1.
Garner Wallace added two receptions for 25 yards and Justin Canini had one catch for 34 yards.
Defensively, Central limited the Dawgs to 192 total yards and five first downs.
For the fourth consecutive season, the Tigers will face a team in the playoffs that they played during the regular season.
"We're very happy to be hosting," Central coach Jay Sharrett said. "Last year, we had a tough Week 1 (playoff) game at (Hilliard) Bradley at their place and we were fortunate enough to win that and another couple others to win the regional championship.
"We're just happy that we clinched the OCC-Ohio (title outright). I'm happy for our seniors."
Reynoldsburg closed the regular season with a 55-20 victory over Lancaster on Nov. 1 to secure a playoff spot.
Dijon Jennings completed seven of 10 passes for 140 yards and three touchdowns and Michael Whatley was 7-for-9 passing for 146 yards and one score while splitting the quarterback snaps.
James Dean had five catches for 169 yards and Shon Strickland added four receptions for 41 yards and two touchdowns.
Reynoldsburg forced five turnovers.
Doniven Jackson returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown and Marshawn Massey returned a blocked punt 20 yards for a score to give the Raiders a 13-0 lead with 9:47 left in the first quarter.
"We did a great job on all three levels: offense, defense and special teams," White said. "I wasn't sure about our team's psyche because we had lost three out of four (games) and got stomped by (Central on Oct. 25). I saw that these guys had their pep back in their step and we took the opening kickoff back."
In the regular-season matchup between the Raiders and Tigers, Crenshaw rushed for 139 yards and three touchdowns and passed for 174 yards as Reynoldsburg "missed so many tackles," according to White.
Reynoldsburg is making back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time in program history, while Central is in the postseason for the 14th consecutive season.
"I don't think either team will rediscover itself," Sharrett said. "We'll have to retool our game plan, and you're talking about whether it's different defensive alignments or when special teams become more of a major factor. You might have two teams that stalemate each other, so it could come down to something along those lines."