As the season grows older, the games take on increased importance.
Friday night is no different with all four county high school football teams in action. Warren and Youngsville will host region competition while Eisenhower and Sheffield will hit the road, looking to return home with wins.
Eisenhower can clinch at least a share of the Region 2 title with a victory while Warren needs a win to keep its Region 5 title hopes alive. Both Sheffield and Youngsville will be looking to end losing streaks and add a victory to seasons that haven't gone as well.
Eisenhower (5-2) at Union City (3-4), 7 p.m., Friday, Union City High School
Last Friday, it took a Class AAA opponent in Conneaut to end the Knights' five-game winning streak.
Despite the team's second loss of the season, Eisenhower remains perfect in Region 2 and can lock up at least a share of the region crown with a victory Friday in Union City.
The Knights will also have a chance to extract some revenge for the Bears' 21-18 week 10 victory a season ago that helped keep Eisenhower from advancing to the District 10 Class A playoffs.
All that coach Jim Penley wants is to get back on the winning track.
"We're getting to the point in the season where need to play complete games," said Penley. "To us, last week was the start of the playoffs. We have to come out and play sharp from the opening week. As we found out last week, if you don't play sharp and dig an early hole, it can be very difficult to get back into the game."
It's been an up and down season for the Bears. In week two, the team was so banged up, it couldn't even take the field against Mercyhurst Prep. In the five games since, the Bears have clicked off three wins including a 38-14 victory over Youngsville two weeks ago.
Josh Reinke has come on as the team's top back and now stands at 518 yards with eight touchdowns to pace the club. Quarterback Brody Mangol has also rushed for well over 300 yards and thrown five touchdown passes.
Last meeting: November 4, 2011- at Eisenhower High School- Union City 21, Eisenhower 18
2012 Knights Leaders: Passing- Aaron Lundmark 45 of 94 for 793, 10 TD, 3 INT; Rushing- John Pascuzzi 148 for 1,018, 9 TD; Receiving- Nathan O'Brien 20 for 454, 6 TD
DuBois (6-0) at Warren (6-1), 7 p.m., Friday, War Memorial Field
Last Friday, the Warren Dragons handed a team of Beavers their first defeat of the season with a dominating win over previously unbeaten Corry.
Warren will get an opportunity to do the exact same thing Friday when the 6-0 Region 5 co-leading DuBois Beavers invade War Memorial Field.
It is the third straight week in which the Dragons have squared off with an undefeated opponent. Head coach Brad Wright knows his team has the opportunity to make a statement with a victory.
"It's a big game against an undefeated opponent, but we need to focus on the things within our control," said Wright. "The best statement we can make is to come out and play a strong efficient game and control the things we can control."
DuBois - tied for the Region 5 lead with unbeaten Slippery Rock - has one of the best passing games in the district. Sophomore Gabe French has completed 69 percent of his 117 passes this season with 1,170 yards and 13 touchdowns. His backup, classmate Connor Stewart, has completed 25 of 28 throws for 275 yards and two more scores.
Garrett Brown is the name to watch in the backfield as the senior has 937 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns in 2012. Brown is averaging well over 10 yards per carry this year and will try to increase that number against Warren's much-improved run defense.
Garrett Miles and Bryson Paulinellie all the team's top wideouts with 23 and 22 catches respectively. Paulinellie has caught nine of the team's 15 receiving touchdowns.
Last meeting: November 3, 1989- at DuBois High School- DuBois 25, Warren 8
2012 Dragons Leaders: Passing- Austin Jerman 79 of 125 for 1,195, 17 TD, 3 INT; Rushing- Austin Jerman 63 for 476, 6 TD; Receiving- Luke Wortman 23 for 350, 3 TD
Cochranton (4-3) at Youngsville (1-6), Friday, 7 p.m., Mike Shine Field
A lot can change in a season.
Last year, Youngsville steamrolled over Cochranton en route to an outright Region 2 championship.
In 2012, the Eagles are hoping to give the Cardinals' playoff hopes a major setback and add a bright spot to an otherwise dismal season.
Youngsville coach Luke Alex knows it won't be easy with his injury-depleted roster and needs several areas of his team's performance to improve if the Eagles want their second win of the year.
"We absolutely have to be strong up front," said Alex. "We have some young guys that are getting better and they need to step up so we can try to pound the ball. Dan McLaughlin has done a great job the last couple of weeks, carrying the ball more than he typically does and Jaykup Durlin has lifted his game on the offensive line."
Cochranton has a potent passer in senior Chad Eisenhooth. While not the most prolific signal caller in the district, Eisenhooth is more than capable of beating a defense with his arm and has over 1,000 yards passing to prove it.
Eisenhooth is also strong in the running game with he and teammate Austin Andrews combining for nearly 1,000 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. A.J. Nageotte is one the team's top pass catchers, but is also a ball hawk on defense, sharing the team lead for interceptions (4) with teammate Jesse Staudt.
Last meeting: October 28, 2011- at Cochranton High School- Youngsville 58, Cochranton 6
2012 Eagles Leaders: Passing- Jacob Lauffenburger 29 of 56 for 442, 4 TD, 5 INT; Rushing- Rocco Gatta 63 for 389, TD; Receiving- T.J. Hardy 9 for 192, 2 TD
Sheffield (2-5) at Smethport (3-4), Friday, 7 p.m., Smethport Area High School
Sheffield has no need to hang its head after a 69-30 week 7 loss to Port Allegany.
The Gators' quarterback Matt Bodamer has done that to nearly every team he's faced the past three seasons.
The Wolverines will have to leave Bodamer and the Gators in the rearview before Friday when they travel to Smethport for a crucial region game with the Hubbers. The winner of Friday night's game will take sole possession of second place in the Allegheny Mountain League North and first-year coach Dave Fitch says his team badly wants that spot.
"Our team believes that they are a lot better than what we showed last week against Port," said Fitch. "We didn't play up to our standards and are eager to come out strong against Smethport and show that how we played last week isn't how we play. We need to come out and establish the basics - blocking and tackling. If we want to win this week, we have to execute the basics."
The Hubbers will almost certainly have to run the ball against the Wolverines because of a virtually non-existent pass game. Through seven games, quarterback Clay Schuler has completed just 10 passes and been picked off four times.
Schuler is the team's leading rusher with 641 yards and 10 touchdowns and senior teammate Karl Lightner also sees his share of carries with 433 yards and three touchdowns.
Last meeting: October 22, 2011- at Sheffield High School- Sheffield 18, Smethport 0
2012 Wolverines Leaders: Passing- Shequan Wright 46 of 128 for 819, 6 TD, 8 INT; Rushing- Brandon Johnston 49 for 143; Receiving- Brendan Winslow 12 for 198, TD