Mutual respect is a common theme this week as Licking Valley and Steubenville prepare for their Division IV, Region 13 quarterfinal showdown Friday.
"Looking at them on film, Big Red is by far the best team we have played this year," Panthers coach Randy Baughman said. "We've had some success but we certainly have not done the things Steubenville has. I don't think anybody else can match what Big Red has done when it comes to the playoffs."
Steubenville coach Reno Saccoccia, whose club is 6-4 and seeded eighth, called Licking Valley "a very good football team."
"Licking Valley is very well-coached, well-disciplined and their players play football the way it's meant to be played," he said. ''They are a senior-dominated team and their record, along with the records of their opponents, shows it. That's why they are No. 1 in the region."
Kickoff for the second meeting between the schools (Big Red earned a 33-7 victory on its way to a Division III championship) is set for 7:30 p.m. at Randy Baughman Stadium.
Big Red is making its 13th consecutive trip to the Ohio playoffs and 26th overall. Steubenville's postseason total is tied for fifth best in Ohio history with Youngstown Mooney. Newark Catholic leads with 33. Big Red's all-time playoff record is 47-22.
Licking Valley is in the playoffs for the 14th time and first since 2010. The Panthers are 26-13 in the postseason.
The Licking Valley offense averages 191 yards per game on the ground and another 191 through the air. The Panthers score 36 points per game while allowing 15.
"We try to be balanced," Baughman pointed out. "I'd like for us to be 60-40 and rely more on the run. We try to stay balanced just because we are not very big and we want to keep the defense guessing."
Grant Garber (6-foot-1, 215 pounds) directs the Licking Valley attack. The senior quarterback established a school passing record, throwing for 2,127. He passed for 350 in the Granville loss.
Ty Griffith, a 6-2, 175-pound senior, has grabbed 52 Garber passes and averages 16.6 yards per catch.
Another senior, Hunter Hartshorn, is Licking Valley's leading rusher. He goes, 6-1, 215, and has run for more than 800 yards and 16 scores.
Through 10 games, Big Red's offense is averaging 305 yards per outing and 30 points. The defense is surrendering 239 stripes and 26 points.
Sophomore Dimitri Collaros has passed for 612 yards while fellow sophomore Mandela Lawrence-Burke has 585.
Sophomore Johnnie Blue, who became the featured Big Red back following injuries to Garon Lytle and Robert Hayden, leads the rushing attack with 378 yards.
Lytle has 328 and Hayden 308. The two seniors are doubtful for Friday. Lawrence-Burke has contributed 303 via the ground.
Senior Bryan Pierro has 23 catches to pace Big Red's receivers. Junior Lucas Herrington has 17 and senior Cody Saltsman, who has missed the last few games with an injury.