The Hartley football team understands that the offensive styles it faces each week of the postseason could vary significantly.
After handling eighth-seeded London's run-first, ball-control offense in a 14-8 win Nov. 8 in the first round of the Division III, Region 11 playoffs, the top-seeded Hawks will face a more balanced offense when they play fourth-seeded Granville in a regional semifinal Friday, Nov. 15, at Watkins Memorial.
Although the programs never have met, there is some familiarity regarding what Hartley might see from the Blue Aces given that Granville coach Justin Buttermore was coaching Dresden Tri-Valley in 2017 when the Hawks lost to the Scotties 13-9 in the Region 11 final.
Tri-Valley went on to lose in the state final and Buttermore left after that season to take over at Granville, which he has guided to a 20-3 mark in two seasons.
Both teams are 10-1, with the Blue Aces coming off a 41-7 trouncing of fifth-seeded Zanesville in their playoff opener Nov. 8.
The semifinal winner plays second-seeded Jonathan Alder or third-seeded Jackson on Nov. 22 for the regional title.
"I have a lot of respect for coach Buttermore," coach Brad Burchfield said. "He was at Tri-Valley (when the Scotties) beat us in a regional final and he's as good of a coach as anybody we coach against. They do a tremendous job in every area. They're stout on defense. They don't give up many points at all. I know Zanesville was scoring a lot of points and Zanesville only scored on a deep ball.
"I know they lost to Licking Valley (28-12 on Oct. 25), but Licking Valley is awfully good. Coach Buttermore takes a loss and they get better from it. We're going to have to be at our very best to win this game. We're in it now and every play is critical."
Hartley, which lost in a regional semifinal last season, got a 10-yard touchdown run by Marcelis Parker early in the second quarter and a 1-yard scoring run by Mason Sawyer late in the same quarter against London.
The Red Raiders cut their deficit to 14-8 on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Juane Gardner to Ethan Minner with 52 seconds left and Caleb Sollars ran for the two-point conversion, but Hartley recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the clock.
The Hawks limited London to 167 yards rushing and forced three turnovers, including an interception by Angelo Evans near the goal line early in the fourth quarter.
"We knew we were going to be run-stopping for most of the game and tried to match their physicality," Sawyer said. "It's a playoff game, a survive-and-advance kind of game, and you try to do whatever you can to win."
In Granville's win over Zanesville, quarterback Bo Buttermore completed 11 of 15 passes for 171 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 33 yards. On the season, he is 150-for-228 passing for 2,288 yards with 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions and has rushed for 477 yards and seven scores on 80 carries.
He is one of coach Buttermore's two sons on the team along with Doak Buttermore, who rushed for 94 yards against Zanesville and has 498 yards rushing and eight touchdowns on 102 carries on the season.
Both players are defensive standouts as well, with Bo in the secondary and Doak at linebacker.
Other key players on offense include running back Devon Haley (94 carries, 561 yards, 7 TDs) and wide receivers Dominic Varrasso (37 receptions, 642 yards, 9 TDs), Zach Walsh (40 receptions, 646 yards, 6 TDs) and KeShawn Bonner (48 receptions, 697 yards, 7 TDs).
Defensively for the Blue Aces, linebackers Braden Atchison (63.5 tackles, 8 tackles for loss) and Carter Brock (59 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss) and safeties Andy Hoben (34 tackles, 3 tackles for loss) and Mitch Kunar (38 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss) are other top playmakers.
"We played great (defensively) and really stymied London from what they wanted to do running the football," Burchfield said. "I don't think they had many yards or many first downs. We gave them a few opportunities with the turnovers we had on offense, (but) the defense stood tall.
"You just win and go play the next game. (Granville is) really well-coached and a really good football team. They run it, throw it and play great defense, and we've got our work cut out for us."