BELLAIRE - Both Jose Davis and Phil Pest are encouraged by the progress their football teams have made during the early portion of the season.
Bellaire has won all three of its outings, while Buckeye Local has claimed two straight since dropping their opener at Utica.
The big question coming into their encounter Saturday at Nelson Field, is what's going to give?
Buckeye Local's Andy Stock
Bellaire's Quinton Crosby
The Big Reds pulled off that miracle rally in Week 1 at Steubenville Catholic and have since cruised to victories against winless John Marshall and East Liverpool squads to reach 3-0.
''Obviously, you can't complain about being 3-0 because certainly every team would like to be in this position,'' Davis said. ''But, we realize we've got a long way to go and a lot of improvement still to be made as we head into the meat of our schedule.''
The Panthers, meanwhile, were beaten soundly (45-20) at Utica. However, they've bounced back with victories against winless Westinghouse and John Marshall the last two weeks to enter league play on a bit of a roll.
''After that initial game, we've been playing much better as a team, especially defensively,'' said Pest, the Panthers' rookie coach. ''Getting a couple of wins has certainly helped the morale of our kids. We've practiced better and things are falling into place for us.''
That Panthers defense will certainly be tested by the high-powered Big Reds offense, which has showed the ability to be versatile.
''We've talked about the fact that most teams are going to play us for the pass,'' Davis said. ''At the end of the day, we need to be balanced. We've been working on that and I thought we did a nice job last week of taking what (East Liverpool) was giving us. We'll do what we feel we have to do to give us the best chance to win the game.''
Riding the powerful right arm of talented junior quarterback Spencer Badia was been the recipe for the most part He's completed 61 of 111 passes for 789 yards and eight touchdowns.
''I feel Bellaire has probably the best quarterback in the Buckeye 8,'' Pest said. ''It's going to be a challenge to stop him. We're going to need some long possessions to keep their offense off the field as best we can.''
Patrone's top target has been junior Nick Patrone. He's made 25 receptions for 331 yards and two touchdowns. Quinton Crosby (8-120-2td), Kenny Hess (10-123-td), Nick Maffe (7-75) and Hunter Westlake (5-86-2td) are also reliable targets for the Big Reds.
On the ground, Maffe is the leading rusher with 208 yards and three scores on 32 carries.
''Bellaire makes you defend the entire field,'' Pest said. ''Their kids are quick and they do a good job of getting them into the open field to make plays. Every game is going to be a challenge in this league and playing away on a Saturday afternoon is a different challenge because it breaks routine.''
The Panthers offense made the most of its few opportunities last weekend as John Marshall dominated the time of possession.
Nathan Kirk has assumed the controls at quarterback and he's passed for 160 yards and three touchdowns. His top targets are Shane Duncan (5-140-2td) and Andy Stock (5-54-td).
The ground game has received a boost with the return of the speedy Stock. Austin Marshall is the top rusher with 201 yards and a touchdown.
''We're going to have to bring our 'A' game because Buckeye has several good athletes," Davis said. "We expect this to be a battle the entire day.
"It's going to come down to who executes the best and gets the defensive stops.''
Kickoff is slated for 12:30 p.m.