It's win or wait-until-next-season for a couple of Eastern Ohio football teams Friday night as Week 9 of the high school football season unfolds across the Ohio Valley.
With the OHSAA playoffs on the horizon, River and Monroe Central desperately need victories on the road, while Indian Creek looks to solidify its current position and Beallsville seeks to keep its very feint hopes alive.
The Pilots (5-3) travel to Old Washington for a Pioneer Valley Conference clash with homestanding Buckeye Trail (4-4); the Seminoles (5-3) trek to Beaverton to meet host Frontier (4-4); Indian Creek (7-1) heads south on Ohio 7 to Yorkville where Buckeye Local (4-4) awaits; Beallsville (3-5) welcomes Paden City (1-7) to Monroe County; and Barnesville (4-4) hits the road to New Martinsville to battle Magnolia (6-1).
On Saturday, St. John Central (3-5) hosts Cameron (4-4).
River vs. Buckeye Trail, 7 p.m.
Mike Flannery's squad is currently ninth in the latest OHSAA computer rankings, one spot out of the eighth - and final - playoff berth.
The Pilots like to mix it up offensively behind the passing of senior quarterback Cody Caldwell (1,255 yds., 10TDs, 9INTs) and the running of senior Nick Asturi (806 yds., 13TDs) and junior Jordan Sapp (564, 6). Kameron Brown (35 rec., 761 yds., 7TDs) is the leading receiver, while Asturi (14-221-1) is also a threat.
River has won three of its last four games since suffering back-to-back setbacks to Monroe Central and Magnolia. The other loss was to Zanesville Bishop Rosecrans.
"Every game, no matter if it is Week 1 of Week 9, is a must-win," Flannery stressed. "We have our goals and how we are going to get there. We out ourselves in this position, but we control our own destiny if we win out. Then we have to worry about other teams winning."
The Warriors are in the midst of a two-game losing skid, having dropped games to Fort Frye and Shadyside.
Tyler Nealey and Lane Starr have proven to be Buckeye Trail's top two rushers, while freshman quarterback Morgan Dougherty is having a good season.
Monroe Central at Frontier, 7 p.m.
Jay Circosta has walked the sidelines for more than 40 seasons in Woodsfield, but he's never endured the injury bug like this season.
"We're trying to finish this thing out," he said of the 2012 season. "We've got it going again the last couple of weeks, but every week is a challenge. I think we found that out when we went to Fort Frye and came up empty-handed."
The veteran Seminoles boss isn't sure of the status of sophomore tailback Levi Brown, who was injured two weeks ago and sat out last week's win against Barnesville.
"It will probably come down to a game-time decision," he said of Brown's status. "If it's questionable, then we won't take any chances."
With Brown out, Chase Carothers stepped in and did an admirable job as the 5-8, 140-pound sophomore picked up 111 yards and scored two touchdowns on a dozen carries.
"Chase did a real good job filling in for Levi," Circosta praised. "We were pleased with his effort."
The Seminoles are 13th in Division V, Region 17.
The Cougars have had a rollercoaster of a season. They won their first contest (Shenandoah) before losing two (Steubenville Central and Buckeye Trail). They then defeated Bridgeport before losing to Beallsville and Fort Frye. They are currently riding a two-game winning streak with victories over Caldwell and Valley.
Indian Creek vs.
Buckeye Local, 7 p.m.
At World War II Memorial Stadium, the Redskins enter the Buckeye 8 contest ranked fourth in Division III, Region 11.
Since being throttled by St. Clairsville in Week 4, Indian Creek has reeled off four consecutive victories against Bellaire, Union Local, Martins Ferry and Harrison Central.
Meanwhile, the Panthers and first-year head Phil Pest are looking to get back on track after suffering a blowout loss to St. Clairsville last week. Buckeye Local has won just two of its last five outings since defeating Westinghouse and John Marshall in Weeks 2 and 3.
Senior quarterback/free safety Alex Young is the Redskins' key performer on both side of the ball. Fleet-footed Logan Woods is a threat any time he touches the leather.
The Panthers are led by wide receiver Shane Duncan with 20 catches for 505 yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback Nathan Kirk has passed for 709 yards and six TDs, but has thrown a dozen picks. Austin Marshall has collected 421 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
Paden City at
Beallsville, 7 p.m.
Paul Kanzigg's injury-riddle Blue Devils are riding a two-game winning streak after wins over Toronto and Bridgeport. A triumph over the Wildcats would give Beallsville a chance at .500 with a trip to St. John Central awaiting in the regular-season finale.
"The kids' attitudes are great. Our practices have been really good," Kanzigg, in his first season, said. "Our offensive line continues to get better with each game, and I'm hoping we will be able to run the ball a little more this week. We still want to be balanced offensively, but I'd like to run the ball a little more."
If Kanzigg gets his wish, Bruce Sefert will have to carry the load as Gage Steele was lost for the season just before the half last week in Bridgeport. He was off to a monstrous game before suffering a fractured ankle.
"He's done for the season," Kanzigg said of his senior stalwart. "That makes four starters that we've lost, but the kids keep plugging along."
Senior quarterback Teryn Jarrett didn't have an exceptional game last week, but he has thrown for more than 1,800 yards and 16 touchdowns. Sefert has gained 319 yards and scored eight touchdowns. Ricky Tubaugh is also an option.
Barnesville at Magnolia, 7:30 p.m.
At Alumni Field, the Shamrocks will look to halt a three-game losing streak in which they have been outscored 130-21. That comes on the heels of a four-game win streak against teams with an 8-24 combined mark.
It won't be easy, however, as the host Blue Eagles are fighting for a home playoff berth in the West Virginia Class A rankings.
Barnesville has been led by quarterback Kyle Yaquinta. He has passed for 856 yards and eight touchdowns, while also running for 211 and three more scores. Colton Pritchard has a team-high 374 infantry yards. Pritchard, Kyle McIntire and Brandon Burkhart are the leading targets.