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Game of the Week: Marysville vs. Hilliard Darby Preview

By Danny Fogarty, 09/23/21, 9:00AM EDT


A preview of this year's sixth Game of the Week between the Marysville and Hilliard Darby.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- On Friday night at 7:00 p.m., Hilliard Darby's Panthers will travel to Marysville High School to play the undefeated Monarchs.

The last time these teams met was in Week 2 last season, and Hilliard Darby (4-1) won the matchup by a score of 31-28.

Darby coach John Santagata said that while last year the Panthers' offense could score effectively against the Monarchs (4-0), Friday's game might be a different story.

"Last year we were able to score some points," Santagata said. "But it seems like they're playing tremendous defense right now."

This season, Marysville has allowed an average of five points per game and has not allowed more than seven points on the board.

That gives the Monarchs the best-ranked defense in the area and one of the best in all of Ohio.

Marysville coach Brent Johnson said he attributes his defense's success to the job his coaches have done and how responsive his players have been with their tasks.

"Our kids are well coached and I think our kids are disciplined," Johnson said. "We're doing a good job of with alignments and just dialing into each assignment."

Just three seasons ago, Marysville finished 5-5 with little hope of reaching the top of their conference.

Now, at 4-0 , the Monarchs are enjoying their best season in eight years while doing so against competitive teams like Pickerington North and Hilliard Bradley.

Johnson said that while he understand his team's success this season, his team's mentality is to take every game as it comes and not compare themselves to other teams.

"We're a 1-0 type of mentality here, get better every week mentality," Johnson said. "We don't want to put the cart before the horse and project. We don't do a lot of ‘side by sides’ with this team." 

Hilliard Darby quarterback Blake Horvath runs with the ball through defenders during the Panthers' Week 4 game againt Hilliard Davidson.

Hilliard Darby will have their work cutout for them on offense, but they will be helped by their star senior quarterback Blake Horvath.

The Panthers' option-style offense runs through Horvath on whether he chooses to hand the ball off or run it himself.

Sanatagata said that although this has worked for them in the past, his team will need to switch things up against Marysville by featuring passes to receivers and handoffs to senior fullback James Hakes.

"We have to become more diverse offensively," Santagata said.  "We have to be able to throw the ball, and we have to establish our fullback."

Hakes has been effective this season in tandem with Horvath, and Santagata said this is especially true in the Panthers' Week 4 game against Davidson where both Horvath and Hakes rushed for over 60 yards.

Johnson said that his team respects the skills Hovath and his team have on offense and said it is crucial that even if they contain the quarterback, there are other players they need to deal with.

"Our program has a lot of respect for John at Darby and their players," Johnson said. "If you take away Horvath, they've got kids that can hurt you so we've just got to play good team defense, we've got to be very disciplined."

On Friday night at 7:00 p.m. at Impact Stadium, one of two things will happen: Marysville will triumph and stay undefeated, or Hilliard Darby will capture a signature win against an unbeaten team.

Johnson said he and his players are looking forward to Friday's opportunity to play in front of the home crowd and the energy that brings.

"What kid doesn't like playing at home," Johnson said.  "Our community is excited, so it's really  our kids' stage on Friday night, they execute well and play hard."