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November 17, 2010

Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

To hear the coaches talk, the game sounds more like a boxing match than it does a high school football game.

"We are dumb enough to think we can beat anyone," Hilliard (Ohio) Davidson coach Brian White said. "But in a good way."

"We are prepared for a fight," Pickerington (Ohio) Central coach Jay Sharrett said. "Whoever can make the plays at the end will win."

Saturday evening's Region 3 final, pitting the RivalsHigh 100's No. 34-ranked Pickerington Central and No. 38-ranked Hilliard Davidson, is a battle for a spot in the Ohio Division I semifinals.

It is also the RivalsHigh national Game of the Week.

Two teams which play in the Ohio Capital Conference (but opposite divisions) are becoming familiar foes as this is the third straight year they will meet in the playoffs.

The previous games were slugfests.

Davidson won a 2009 second-round game, 17-7; Pickerington Central captured the 2008 regional final, 7-3.

"We are becoming more familiar with each other," Sharrett said. "We have gone back and forth."

While neither coach is ready to call the game a rivalry, both know their meetings are building in importance as both emerge as national programs.

"With the success we have had and the success they are having, I am sure everyone thought we would meet in the regional finals," White said. "But in Ohio, there are not many easy games come playoff time, so we did not take this for granted."

This year, both teams advanced to this point with relative ease.

Pickerington Central downed Troy (Ohio) High, 24-8, in the opening round and followed that up with a 30-0 shutout over Westerville (Ohio) South.

"Those two games were brawls," Sharrett said. "Those games helped to harden our team for this game."

Davidson, meanwhile, continues its quest to defend its state title.

So far the Wildcats have eliminated Columbus (Ohio) Northland, 47-6, and Springfield (Ohio) High, 9-0.

"We would like to play the underdog role," White said. "But I think we are winning too much for that now."

White, who has been the coach at Davidson for 12 years, was not joking. He understands that his team has a major advantage because it does not pass the eye-ball test.

"Not many people look at us and think we can accomplish much," he said. "I think some coaches have a hard time convincing their teams to take us seriously. They watch film and don't see too much. We are very vanilla. We get off the bus and no one is in awe."

That trend is likely to end. At least for this week.

"They are defending champs," Sharrett said. "They won two tough playoff games to get here. We know what we are in for."

Actually, Pickerington Central may be in for a bit of a surprise.

This Hilliard Davidson team has the most Division I talent it has had in school history.

The Wildcats have three players with college scholarship offers.

"I guess you can say we have more talent than ever before," White joked. "We are rarely blessed with Division I kids. We just have a lot of very hard workers. And we are very disciplined."

Sharrett, however, is not one to worry about those metrics.

"We don't look at who's ranked, who has offers, this and that," he said. "We know what is on the line and we need to be ready to answer the bell."

And come out swinging.

National GOTW
No. 34 Central v No. 38 Davidson
DB Eilar Hardy (6-1/175, Sr.)
DB Tamani Carter (6-0/175, Sr.)
RB Speedy Hammond (6-0/180, Sr.)
QB James Curtis (6-1/170, Sr.)
K J.D. Detmer (5-8/170, Sr.)
DE Keith Heitzman (6-3/237/Sr.)

When: Saturday 11/20, 7 p.m.
Last Meeting: 11/14/09, Hilliard Davidson won, 17-7
Rankings: Pickerington Central (11-0), No. 2 in Ohio
Hilliard Davidson (12-0), No. 3 in Ohio

PICKERINGTON CENTRAL WINS IF: Its inside linebackers are physical and make tackles at the point of attack. Davidson has a good mix of talented backs and running the ball will be part of the equation. Being able to limit what the Wildcats do on the ground will be able to limit the scoring opportunities and turn it into a field position game. If the Tigers are forced to keep it on the ground, then Speedy Hammond will have to step up and have a big game.

DAVIDSON WINS IF: Its defense can control the game. Pickerington is, in theory, the more explosive of the two teams entering the game. Hilliard Davidson has only allowed 66 points all season and the strength of the team is the together-as-a-unit mentality that the Wildcats have. The field position game could be one that tips to the side of Davidson. One of the team's three Division I athletes is kicker J.D. Detmer. If the defense carries the day, then Davidson will be on to the semifinals.

PREDICTION: This was the predicted regional final in the Columbus area as both teams have been able to establish themselves as legitimate national powers. The difference in this game is going to be discipline up front. Pickerington Central has had spotty performances in the trenches - including a very good performance last week against Westerville South - but Davidson is like a locomotive. Davidson will eventually wear down Pickerington and make a big play defensively that turns the tide of the game.
- Hilliard Davidson 16, Pickerington Central 7

Game of the Week Predictions: 8-5 (10-5 in '09)



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