The majority of the Olentangy Berlin football team's seniors began their high school careers as freshmen in the Olentangy program.

Now in their third season as Bears, those players will return to their former school as Berlin and the Braves will face off for the first time Friday, Sept. 4.

After going 1-9 in its first season, Berlin went 6-5 a year ago and made the Division II playoffs.

Olentangy is 13-12 since the split, but a grueling schedule paved the way for two postseason appearances, including a run to the Division II, Region 7 final last year.

The inaugural meeting for the Braves and Bears would have been in a regional semifinal had Berlin defeated Whitehouse Anthony Wayne in the first round a year ago, but the Bears fell 44-36.

Olentangy is continuing to replenish its numbers following the split, with 49 players in grades 10-12 and 75 overall, roughly 40 fewer than in 2017.

The Braves, who returned nine starters on both offense and defense, opened Aug. 28 with a 7-3 win at Orange. That same night, Berlin committed three turnovers, gave up 15 unanswered points to end the game and lost 35-21 at Liberty.

"They have a good tradition," Bears coach Mark Nori said of Olentangy. "They're always viable contenders. I know they're going to be well-coached and we're going to have to put our 'A' game together to go down and beat them on the road."

This will be the OCC-Cardinal Division opener for both teams.

Olentangy's defense shined against Orange, holding the Pioneers to 174 yards and coming up with perhaps the biggest play of the night when defensive lineman Nathan Rudawsky tackled Orange's Evan Merklin shy of a first down after a muffed 28-yard field-goal attempt with 8 minutes left.

The Braves held the ball for more than 31 minutes and scored the only touchdown halfway through the first quarter on a 1-yard run by quarterback Kaden Doup.

In his first game as a starter, Doup completed eight of 10 passes for 80 yards and added 28 yards rushing on 11 carries.

Linebacker Brady Ramsey's eight tackles led the defense.

"That's going to be our identity on offense and I'm so proud of the defense. I love how we fought and finished," Olentangy coach Mark Solis said. "We showed a lot of toughness and played with guts. (But) we have to get a lot better with our conditioning for (this) week."

Berlin rolled up 470 yards of offense against Liberty and led 21-20 in the third quarter before giving up two touchdowns, one of which came on the play after an interception.

Quarterback Jacob Moeller completed 28 of 43 passes for 416 yards and two touchdowns, wide receiver Bennett Lawrence caught 11 passes for 228 yards and a score and running back Nick Tiberio added 56 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.

"It's always those little things -- a couple penalties here and there (and) we turned the ball over a couple times," Nori said.

In his third year as a starter, Moeller has completed 287 of 510 passes for 3,984 yards with 32 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave