Neither Wheeling Park's Chris Daugherty or Morgantown's John Bowers can put a finger on exactly why the two programs have played so many tightly contested games during the years. Really though, it's fairly simple: these two teams are carbon copies of one another, and that will be the case again when they meet at 7:30 on Friday night at Pony Lewis Field in Morgantown.
"I have no idea what gives you the ability to kind of play tougher against certain teams,'' Daugherty said. "We all tend, for whatever reason, to look at it as 'if we can play with this team, we should be able to play well against this one.'
"I think we usually have a little more speed and they are usually a little bit bigger.
Troy Salatino (61) and the Wheeling Park line have a tough challenge against Morgantown’s defense.
"It comes down to do we have the strength, and I guess we will find out Friday.''
This is a monumental game in terms of playoff positioning, with the winner in all probability earning the right to stay at home at least through the quarterfinals. The Patriots (5-0) are No. 3 in the latest WVSSAC Class AAA ratings, while the Mohigans (5-1) are No. 12. Morgantown's lone loss - by seven against Martinsburg - could conceivably end up being a victory because the Bulldogs have an eligibility issue that is currently playing out in the court system.
"It's a big point game for both schools,'' Bowers said. "Whoever wins it's huge, because both teams are going to win more games.
"This game will go a long way not only for both these schools, but a lot of other schools around the state."
The big story will be the play along the interior lines. Wheeling Park has traditionally been smaller in stature, but that's not the case this season. The problem, as Daugherty sees it, is that Morgantown in enormous.
"Our offensive line coach Tim Ickes, who was an All-American lineman at West Liberty, the first year we played them they came out on the field and he said, 'I feel like we're getting ready to play Shepherd right now.'
"It's going to be real interesting to see who wins the line of scrimmage.''
If the Mohigans claim victory in that department it could be a long night, because that means senior running back Chazzy Thomas, the unquestioned leader in the Kennedy Award race at this point, will be running wild. Thomas leads the state with more than 1,500 yards and is coming off a performance of 300-plus yards and five touchdowns.
"They are both good for each other,'' Bowers said of Thomas and his line. "If we had a lesser back we would still put up numbers, but put him behind that line and a lot of good things can happen.
"Chazzy won't take any credit himself either. He'll give it to the line.''
The Patriots counter with an offense that features Bryce Ingram and Savion Johnson at running back, as well as punishing fullbacks Geremy Paige and Theo Blackston. Outside the hashes is diminutive, but dangerous wideout Eric Banks, who has made a living catching passes from senior quarterback Zach Phillips.
"They're just so balanced,'' Bowers said. "Some teams have a good running back or quarterback, or maybe a wide receiver.
"They've got everything.
"They have a bunch of big, strong kids.''
What about on defense, Coach Bowers?
"Defensively they have two of best linebackers in West Virginia standing next to each other with Paige and Blackston," he raved. "They play the right way and they play physical.
"They get in the gaps and try to be disruptive. They're a little bit difficult to prepare for.''
On the other side, Daugherty sees what he always does when the conversation turns to Morgantown.
"A good D-line, as always. A great offensive line, as always,'' Daugherty said. "No different than the previous 10 times we have played them.
"They're well-coached and are not going to make a lot of mistakes. We better be ready."
This contest could come down to the kicking game where, guess what? The teams are even. The Patriots feature Liam Casey and the Mohigans have a good one with Ruanj Venter.