It is getting to the point in the season where every game becomes important, every play is big and everything that happens could be the difference between advancing to the postseason and turning in uniforms after that last regular-season game.
When Frontier (3-4) travels to Pine Grove on Friday night to take on Valley (3-3), a pair of teams needing victories to keep playoff hopes alive will battle in just such a game in which everything matters.
Coach Tom West's Lumberjacks are coming off a 26-0 blanking of Bellaire St. John on the road last Saturday, while Coach Todd Bradford's Cougars, who are currently No. 11 in Ohio Division VII, Region 25, dropped a 36-13 verdict at Caldwell and have lost two in a row.
"We really need to step up our game and do away with all the mental mistakes" Bradford said. "There are just too many turnovers and bad breaks that are our own faults. That and penalties, we just need to cut down on the problems we create for ourselves."
Valley used the big play on offense and a nice defensive effort to gain its third victory in its second game of the week Saturday. The Jacks had three touchdown runs of 30-plus yards while limiting the Fighting Irish to 152 yards of offense.
Leading the way was speedster Trey Streets, who racked up 147 rushing yards and two scores, including runs of 30 and 52 yards. Streets has rushed for nearly 550 yards on the campaign and is a very nice complement to bruising runner Peyton Palmer, who added 89 rushing yards and a 54-yard scoring burst.
"They definitely do what they do very well," Bradford said. "Valley executes its scheme so well. You have to stop them on the ground, and you know that going in, but they have some very nice backs that you have to take care of.
"To beat them, you have to make them throw the football more than they want to and usually do. Hopefully we can do that and also dictate our ground game to them and move the ball. Overall, they are a much better team from last year, and even from earlier this season."
Frontier trailed only 14-7 entering the fourth quarter last week before having the wheels fall off the wagon. The Cougars got 49 yards rushing from Rodney Barnes while quarterback Mitch Reynolds was true on 13 of 24 tosses for 123 yards and two scores. Damon Metheney had eight grabs for 64 while Nick Camino added three for 43.
"I saw them once this season and we are watching them on film, but they are a pretty decent team," West said. "Actually, I think we are very similar teams with the same kind of talent and such. This is going to be a real challenge for us.
"Saturday was pretty good for us, but there are still errors that need corrected. We are a young team - I believe we have been playing well - but we can compete better if we just fix and correct our mistakes.
"One of the biggest things we need to do is working on holding the football, we only lost one fumble last week, but we put the ball on the ground 10 times and you just cannot have that and be successful."