Consider Week 5 a "mid-term" test for Warren County's varsity football teams.
The Dragons, Knights, Wolverines, and Eagles are facing some of their stiffest competition to date in the 2013 season, and to make things even tougher, three of the four teams will play on the road.
Warren looks to stay undefeated at Oil City in a Region 5 game, Eisenhower visits Cochranton in a clash of two of the top teams in Region 2, Sheffield travels to Coudersport in an AML North showdown, and Youngsville welcomes perennial Region 2 power Mercyhurst Prep to Mike Shine Field.
Warren (4-0) at Oil City (2-2), Oil City High School, 7 p.m., Friday
The Dragons have benefitted from breakout performances in region wins over Bradford and Meadville, and they will look for another when they travel to Oil City on Friday. On paper, the Oilers have a record of 2-2, but that includes a forfeit to Bradford in a game that Oil City actually won on the field by a score of 49-0. After it was discovered that an ineligible player was used for three plays, it was decided that the win would go to the Owls. Including the forfeit "loss", the Oilers have scored a total of 152 points in four games. Warren will be tasked with stopping senior running back Kevin Daly, who has rushed for 538 yards and eight touchdowns this year, and shredded the Dragons defense for 259 yards and two touchdowns as a junior in 2012.
"(Oil City) runs the ball very well, both between the tackles and outside the ends," said Dragons' coach Greg Latimer. "We must play error-free football on all four sides of the game - offense, defense, special teams, and coaching. No room for mistakes this week."
Offensively, the Dragons are led by quarterback D.J. Fehlman (35-of-55 for 676 yards and 12 touchdowns), Luke Wortman (115 rushing yards, 227 receiving yards, and two kick returns for touchdowns), and Kyle Kulka (26 carries for 297 yards and three touchdowns).
Last year's meeting: Warren 60, Oil City 36
Eisenhower (3-1) at Cochranton (3-1), Cochranton High School, 7 p.m., Friday
Momentum is key in a ten-game season, and the Knights are riding high. Eisenhower has won three straight Region 2 games, and will look to continue that streak at Cochranton on Friday. The Cardinals' only loss came to Cambridge Springs, which is tied with the Knights for the early-season region lead. Chad Eisenhooth has been Cochranton's most effective player on offense with 215 passing yards, 285 rushing yards, and six total touchdowns, but he was out of the line-up last week against Union City.
"(This game) will be the toughest test," said Eisenhower coach Jim Penley. "They are very physical and have a great group of athletes. We can not come out and spot them 19 points. We have to play like we did against Iroquois and come out clicking. If we do not, they have a team who can beat us."
Leading the way for the Knights is senior running back Alex Johnson, who has nearly 600 total yards on the year, including last week's 225-yard rushing performance against Mercyhurst Prep. Quarterback Rob Wilston has completed 21-of-39 passes for 500 yards and five touchdowns.
Last year's meeting: Eisenhower 38, Cochranton 16
Mercyhurst Prep (1-3) at Youngsville (0-4), Youngsville High School, 7 p.m., Friday
It's been a rough start to the year for the Youngsville Eagles, and things don't get any easier when Mercyhurst Prep comes to town on Friday. The Lakers are 1-3 so far this season, including close losses to Region 2 leaders Eisenhower and Cochranton. The backfield duo of Joe Swanson and Eric Baer have each rushed for over 400 yards while seeing nearly equal carries on the year.
While the Eagles have struggled, head coach John Victor believes that his team's success moving forward will be judged, "by the amount of big plays we give up."
"We made some adjustments to our 'D' to try and eliminate the big play, and we also adjusted our offense (this week) to fit our personnel," added Victor.
For Youngsville, Jake Lauffenburger has completed 17-of-46 passes for 212 yards and rushed for 124 yards on 53 carries. The junior quarterback had a hand in all three of the Eagles' touchdowns, running for two and passing to senior receiver Tyler Hoffman for another in last week's loss to Maplewood.
Last year's meeting: Mercyhurst Prep 48, Youngsville 18
Sheffield (2-2), Coudersport (3-1), Coudersport High School, 7 p.m., Friday
The Allegheny Mountain League's North Division is wide open early in the season, and Friday's game between Sheffield and Coudersport has the potential to set the tone for the second half. The Wolverines are coming off a 27-0 statement win over Cameron County, and the Falcons are also 1-0 in the division after a win over Port Allegany in Week 4. Quarterback Ethan Hite is 27-for-52 for 485 yards and eight touchdowns for Coudersport, and running back Coy Hoffman has 355 yards on 43 carries and eight scores to go along with 12 catches for 228 yards.
Sheffield will need another big performance from Jereek Jackson, who has carried the ball 25 times for 239 yards and four touchdowns in his first year with the Wolverines. Quarterback Adam Higby is 34-of-67 for 376 yards, and Noah Heeter is the leading receiver with 16 catches for 202 yards.
"This is a pretty big game for us as far as the AML North goes," said Sheffield coach Dave Fitch. "We worked hard this week and I expect our kids to build off of their victory last week. Coudy will be hungry as well and I am not expecting them to do anything fancy. They run right at you and have a pretty good front five. We will have to be good up front on both sides of the ball in order to get the job done, but I believe in this group of players and they are starting to gain confidence in their abilities."
Last year's meeting: Sheffield 31, Coudersport 30