It's a big enough deal when Bishop Donahue and Wheeling Central meet on the football field. Throw the fact both are fighting to get into the West Virginia Class A playoff field into the equation, and the stakes automatically become huge.
The Bishops (5-3) and 17th in the WVSSAC ratings and Maroon Knights (5-3), 13th in those same standings, meet for the fourth straight regular season at 7 on Saturday night at Wheeling Island Stadium.
''It's a backyard rivalry,'' Central coach Mike Young said. ''It's two Catholic schools that are close to each other.
C.J. Burch (14), Isaac Rine (7) and the Maroon Knights play host to Bishop Donahue.
''It's one of those things where both schools will be pumped and both student bodies will be excited.
''It's for playoff contention for both of us, so there's a lot on the line.''
The teams appear to be headed in opposite directions, and injuries have a lot to do with that on both sides. The Bishops were devastated early in the season (Jesse Padlow, Lavonte Hampton, Andrew Cunningham, etc.) and lost 3 of 4, but have won two in a row, including last week's 42-13 victory against Beallsville.
''We're healthy and I think we have started putting it all together,'' Bishop coach John Durdines said. ''One thing, I thought we played real physical and real aggressive from start to finish.''
On the other side of the ledger, the Maroon Knights have lost two in a row and are quite banged up. Parker Henry and Gary Gwynn are out for the season, running back C.J. Burch is playing with a cast on his broken arm and just last week they lost Brandon Angalich for what is feared to be an extended period.
At Central, though, it's a next-man-up mentality. Only this season, those next men are actually still boys as the Maroon Knights are playing far more freshmen than any time in recent memory.
''They were starting as freshmen, so they're not really freshmen and sophomores anymore,'' Durdines said.
Wheeling Central was beaten last week, 32-26, by a Renaissance Christian team that simply had the better athletes. In particular, receiver Troy Simons had 286 yards on 16 touches.
''Renaissance is pretty good,'' said Durdines, who was at the game. ''They almost beat St. Clairsville.
''If you look at Central's schedule, their other two losses are to Shadyside (9-0) and Madonna (8-0). At lot of people are losing to those guys.''
Burch went over 100 yards rushing last week in a surprise start, but will have his hand full against a defense that is playing its best football of the season. The main culprit is Chris Vani, who leads the Bishops in tackles and sacks (14) from his defensive line position,
''He hadn't practiced for two weeks,'' Young said of Burch. ''We just found out before the game that we would have him.
''He definitely gave us a spark, but when you're playing with one arm it's tough.''
The Knights are relying more each week on the right arm of freshman quarterback Isaac Rine. He threw a pair of touchdowns last week to John Burkhalter, another freshman.
''Rine showed me a lot,'' Durdines said. ''He has incredible poise and understands the game, which it helps when your offensive coordinator (father Jason Rine) is with you 24/7.
''He's already good as a freshman and he's faster than what people give him credit for.''
Young has words of caution for outsiders that think his team is finished.
''Don't count us out,'' he said. ''We've been in this situation before.
''We've been down and out and battled through adversity.''
This very well may be an elimination game in terms of the playoffs. The loser is going to have a tough climb.
''I think with where we are and where Wheeling Central is, obviously both looking at it as very crucial, but us more so because we're on the outside looking in,'' Durdines said. ''You look at the ratings and there are us, Magnolia and Central down near the bottom.
''There's a lot of good teams at 14, 15 and 16 that are not going to be an easy out.''