The focus could be on the quarterbacks Friday night when Steubenville Catholic and Oak Glen, both currently 2-2, try and improve their chances of earning postseason playoff berths at the Golden Bears new field in New Manchester.
Triggering the Crusaders' high-wire aerial attack is stellar Brenton Colabella, the Ohio Valley's leading passer with nearly 1,200 yards after four games. Colabella accounted for some dazzling numbers last Friday night when he connected for 348 yards and three touchdowns during a 49-7 romp against struggling Toronto. The strong-armed junior's 18 of 26 performance boosted his numbers to 69 completions in 110 attempts for 1,168 yards and 14 touchdowns with two interceptions.
Despite a two-game losing streak after an impressive start, Oak Glen QB Bub Haddox's legs and throwing arm have drawn the attention of every head coach and defensive coordinator in preparing a game plan for the Golden Bears.
Haddox, operating behind one of the area's biggest lines, remained ranked among the Ohio Valley's Big School rushing leaders despite being limited to 64 yards on 13 carries in last Friday night's unexpected 48-12 loss to John Marshall at Monarch Field in Moundsville.
On the season, Haddox is averaging more than 100 yards rushing per game with 405 yards on just 44 attempts, an average of a little less than 9 yards per carry. Last week he also completed 15 of 26 passes for 148 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown strike to senior receiver Cody Howell.
''Steubenville Catholic's high-powered offense is scary,'' Oak Glen first-year coach Ian Whittington said. The former Golden Bears assistant believes Colabella is the best quarterback the Hancock County squad has faced in the last two seasons.
On the way to reaching the playoffs in 2011, the Golden Bears were able to defeat the then young, inexperienced Crusaders by bringing a lot of defensive heat.
The strategy won't change much although the standout QB has been benefiting from better protection this season.
''I think we got to him 11 or 12 times when we set a school record for sacks but his line is obviously much improved," Whittington said. ''We still want to bring a lot of pressure and hope to get him throwing off his back foot.''
Steubenville Catholic coach Steve Daley's main concern in trying to contain Oak Glen's two-way standout QB centers on the size of the hosts' huge line.
''They're big up front and at the running back positions,'' he noted. ''Haddox is a very good athlete who can move out of the pocket. We have to get some stops against him and also not allow them to go toe-to-toe and jam the football right at us.''
Injuries the last couple of weeks forced the Golden Bears to get away from their power football scheme early in games.
They started out running the ball right at John Marshall with good success before an injury in the second quarter to 235-pound fullback Zack Staley forced him out of the game and caused Oak Glen to change the offense.
''We also were without two other key seniors, our kicker/cornerback/receiver Josh Weltner and free safety/receiver Clayton Flowers, who has been out for a while with a severly strained calf," Whittington explained.
''We have to continue to power the football if we are going to be successful. Losing the last two games put us with our backs to the wall as far as the playoffs are concerned. We need to get back on track and this is a big game for us looking down the rest of our schedule.''
Daley insists his main concern is not getting the Crusaders back into the playoffs at this point.
''We want to go 1-0 this week and finish off the first half of the season with a winning record,'' he said.
He has been pleased with Steubenville Catholic's success through the air.
''We are moving the football pretty well and, at times, the running game has been capable enough to keep the other teams honest,'' he said. ''Colabella throws the ball deep accurately and you don't see many high school quarterbacks able to make that throw to the far side of the field. He's also a smart kid that has the OK to make a lot of check down calls himself.''
Another strength pointed to by Daley is the quality of the Crusaders receiving corps. Nine different players have made catches so far and three of them are among the area's leading receivers.
Senior split end Zach Herrington had five catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns last week, giving him 19 receptions, 389 yards and five scores after four games. Other top Steubenville Catholic receivers are Kyle Laukert (14 catches, 284 yards, 4TDs) and Michael Carapellotti (14 catches, 147 yards, 2TDs).