The highlight of the week in football will be Triad hosting West Liberty-Salem for homecoming in what has become a bitter new-age rivalry.
“The younger generation, it seems like West Liberty is the team they like to hate the most. So our kids are going to bring it,” Triad Coach Payton Printz said. “Our seniors want to go out with a winning season. The only way they can do that is to win the rest of the way. And West Liberty’s in the way.”
The Tigers (5-2) are in the thick of a playoff race, but that isn’t what’s concerning Coach Dan McGill.
“There’s no sense in us doing a whole lot of looking forward,” McGill said. “We better get ready and get better if we want to put ourselves in position to not just make the playoffs, but to be competitive when we get there.”
This week, the focus is all on the Cardinals (3-4).
“They’re an athletic team. They run pretty well,” McGill said. “Obviously, with a kid like (quarterback Trent) McIntyre … he makes things happen.”
Printz is also aware of the gravity of the game.
“It doesn’t get any bigger than this. I don’t care how banged up they are – they’re very, very good,” he said, offering praise for both running backs as well as quarterback Brandon Upton.
“The line is freaking huge. They’ve got some big kids,” Printz said. “And they’re well-coached. Coach McGill does a great job with his staff and his team. It’s going to be a war.”
McGill, for his part, knows the Tigers have to keep working to polish up mistakes.
“We need to be more consistent. We take one step forward in a week and then some other issue rears its ugly head. It’s a constant work in progress,” he said. “This is a hardworking team. They want to get better.”
Part of that problem has been on defense, where the Tigers have been under scrutiny for suspect tackling.
“This could well turn into a damn track meet. Both of our defenses are suspect,” Printz admitted.
Also in the OHC, perfect Mechanicsburg looks to remain that way over Northeastern on the road. The Jets have given Greeneview and West Liberty-Salem – both conference contenders – all they could handle earlier this season.
“It’s a much different challenge, schematically,” MHS Coach Kurt Forrest said. “To say that they’re a team that has improved week by week would be an understatement. They have our attention.”
That’s bad news for Northeastern, as it appears the Indians oscillate between two settings: very, very good and unbeatable.
“You’re never sure what a limit is to a team, because you keep pushing to see what they can become,” Forrest said. “When they’re clicking and they’re locked and loaded, they’re capable of very, very special things.”
Graham is coming off a huge blowout win over Greenon and hosts Mad River Division foe Benjamin Logan this week. If the Falcons (2-5) want to prove something, this is the week to do it.
“It always makes practice a little easier when you’re winning football games,” GHS Coach A.J. Woods said. “It’s good to win and get confidence, but we still work hard.”
The Raiders are looking to contend for the division title, so Graham has to beat them to prove the Falcons belong in that discussion.
“They’re a decent football team. No doubt about it,” Woods said. “They throw the ball a lot. Kids make plays for the team.”
One weakness to the Benjamin Logan scheme is the turnovers that inevitably occur in a high-volume passing attack. The Raiders had seven of them against Urbana, but still managed to win.
“That’s something we want to take advantage of. If they do turn the ball over, we have to make them pay for it,” Woods said.
With just a handful of games left on the schedule, the young Falcons aren’t so young anymore. Woods knows it’s time to start making tangible progress.
“It’ll be a good week for us. Our kids are getting better. The young kids are starting to learn what it takes to get victories at this level,” he said. “We’ve just got to execute. We have to play mistake-free football.”
Urbana (2-5), coming off a game in which it took the ball away seven times and lost at Benjamin Logan, will be looking to bounce back with a home win over Northwestern (3-4).
The Hillclimbers need to cut way back on penalties, which have plagued the team all season.
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1776) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller.