While second-year coach Rick Goodrich has done an admiral job of turning around the ship and getting it pointed in the right direction at John Marshall, his Monarchs are still looking to take the next step in the process after a humbling 34-7 defeat at Musselman last Friday night.
If JM is to take that step, a victory this week in Wood County against a struggling Parkersburg South unit could play a pivotal part in things.
Goodrich's revitalized group has posted a 3-2 record at the midway point, including a three-game winning streak that the Applemen interrupted last week.
"Our kids battled and played hard the whole way," Goodrich said. "But we just weren't able to finished drives. We were inside of their 15-yard line three times in the first half without scoring any points and you just can't do that. You have to finish those.
"We need to put that one behind us, but the bottom line is that they were just more physical than us and better than us. You can't change what's behind you, but you can learn from it. We just keep stressing to the kids to improve every day, be physical and finish drives.
"More often than not, the more physical team is going to win football teams and that just wasn't us last week."
Should John Marshall defeat the Patriots, it will pretty much control its destiny as far as any postseason aspirations go with West Virginia Class AAA powers University, Morgantown and arch-rival Wheeling Park waiting in the wings the following three weeks.
Mike Eddy, in his first season at the South helm, watched his team defeat Ripley 47-35 in its opener. However, they have not won since, losing four games in a row by a combined 195-67 margin, including a 56-14 walloping to University before its bye week.
"Our biggest problem has been that we haven't formed into a very good team yet," Eddy said. "We are still doing a lot of individual things and just aren't playing together very well, which will make your mistakes stand out even more.
"Fundamentally we are not very sound and have been committing a lot of turnovers and penalties, which is something we have tried to work on the last couple of weeks. But unfortunately we have had to spend far too much time on internal things which hasn't allowed us to focus enough on our opponents leading up to games and that is not good."
While the Monarchs have been very good in their three victories, racking up 116 points while allowing 12, they have been outscored, 71-21, in a pair of losses.
Senior running back Trevor Hardesty has helped breathe new life into the JM rushing attack, but he was held to 75 yards on just 11 tries at Mussellman. Sophomore quarterback Noah Martin has done a good job under center in his three starts, two of them victories, and was 13 of 25 for 120 yards and a score last week, but did throw a pair of interceptions.
When Martin looks to throw the ball, he has the likes of junior Alex Whorton and classmates Tyler Goode and Austin Skrzyneki in the receiving corps.
If there are any corrections the Monarchs need to work on this week, it may be on the defensive side and stopping the run. The Applemen rushed for 371 yards last week and finished with 548 overall.
Against University, South allowed 313 rushing yards and six touchdowns, so neither team has the run stoppers it wants?
"They have a real good scheme," Eddy said. "They have a down-hill, aggressive approach that fits their players very well. Offensively they are on the line immediately and ready to go. It is just a system that works very well for their personnel.
"We are just looking for a way to climb back up around .500 and this will be a great test for me."
Senior running back Cody Smith is coming off a 113-yard performance against University, while sophomore quarterback Garrett Gilkeson completed 8 of 18 passes for 107 yards.
"They can be a dangerous team on offense," Goodrich said. "In several of their losses they have been their own worst enemies, putting the ball on ground and turning positive plays into negatives with penalties. They actually led Warren 26-0 in one game, but ended up losing.
"Believe me, they are a better football team than their record indicates. Their offensive line is full of veterans and they are improving everywhere. Parkersburg South is just a solid football team."