Fremont St. Joe
Coaches: Scott Knisely, Fremont St. Joe; Erik Baker, Mohawk
Records: St. Joe 8-1, 5-0 Midland Athletic League; Mohawk 3-6, 2-4
Last season: St. Joe 34, Mohawk 20
Outlook: One team is assured a playoff spot regardless of Friday's outcome.
The other is treating the contest as a playoff game.
Baker said he and his staff have placed special importance on game with St. Joe. He wants the seniors to go out strong, and also a momentum-builder for the following season.
To get that, Mohawk will have to pull an upset on the Streaks, a team that has won nine straight games and is shooting for an outright league title.
Baker said he's been impressed with St. Joe quarterback Zach Yeckley.
"Yeckley's a very good thrower; he has no fear," Baker said.
But the coach said St. Joe isn't one dimensional.
"They don't like to (run the ball) very often, but they're very effective when they do," Baker said.
The key, Baker said, is keeping the ball away from Yeckley and company as much as possible. That sounds like the usual Mohawk-football style, which Baker said the Warriors have found in recent weeks.
"I feel like we're finally playing Mohawk football again," Baker said. "We were always playing catch-up; we never established our identity on either side of the ball.
"Starting week six or seven, things started to click or us on defense," he said. "We had young guys playing and the light went on for them. Our young guys are not young guys anymore."
The Warriors also should have extra motivation Friday, with it being military appreciation night.
"All that works to excite our kids and hopefully play our best game of the year," Baker said.
at Seneca East
Coaches: Todd Worst, Carey; Ed Phillips, Seneca East
Records: Carey 7-2, 5-1 MAL; Seneca East 7-2, 4-2
Last season: Carey 19, Seneca East 17.
Outlook: It's not quite as simple as win or go home, but for Phillips, Worst and their respective teams, it might as well be.
The Tigers and Blue Devils still are alive for the Division V postseason. But winning by itself won't secure bids for either team. The Blue Devils sit ninth in Region 18, while the Tigers are 12th. In short, whichever team wins will need some help to play in week 11.
"Basically, we just told them that if they want to play next week, they have to win this week," Worst said. "We just need to prepare for the game and hopefully get a win."
Phillips said his team approaches each game the same way.
"Every week's a playoff game to us, and I mean that," Phillips said. "Being week 10, it is exciting to have that opportunity. We're glad we have a shot."
Two points separated Carey and Seneca East a year ago, and Phillips said the Tigers' loss to Carey hasn't been forgotten by his players.
"You remember that, you're not human if you don't," Phillips said. "We want to send our seniors out strong and give ourselves a chance to play another game."
To do that, Seneca East will have to stop a Carey offense that has been pretty efficient in recent weeks.
"Their offense starts up front with the offensive line, but one thing feeds off another," Phillips said of the Blue Devils' run-based attack. "In the past few years, they've become an efficient passing team."
Last week, Carey inserted Justin Meek into the quarterback position for an injured Matt Holsinger and barely missed a beat. Phillips said Carey will be dangerous no matter who is under center.
They're very explosive," Phillips said. "You have to play assignment football."
Worst also sees explosiveness in Seneca East's offense.
"I think you watch them, and the speed that they have and the one-play scoring capability is higher than anyone we've played this year," Worst said of the Tigers. "That's the scariest thing, from my point of view."
Worst said Seneca East also has a strong defense, and has been opportunistic on special teams.
"They've scored some special teams touchdowns," Worst said. That's what keeps you up late at night."
Coaches: Jake Moyer, Upper Sandusky; Jeremy Kloepfer, Riverdale.
Records: Upper Sandusky 6-3, 4-2 North Central Conference; Riverdale 4-5, 3-3 NCC.
Last year: Upper Sandusky romped the Falcons, 35-6.
Outlook: Moyer lost his grease board.
Assistant coach Steve Sturgeon took it over.
"This has been a running joke all week. Steve Sturgeon, one of my assistant coaches and former head coach here, has numbers all over the board and it looks like something NASA would have put up in the 1960s," Moyer said. "My grease board is full of numbers and if this, then that scenarios."
Sure, it says something that Upper Sandusky has had its first winning season since this team's seniors were in fourth grade (2004). But there's still a shot that the Rams season could extend into a week 11.
Moyer knows, though, all the mathematical equations mean nothing if the Rams don't take care of business Friday night against the Falcons, who sit in second place in the Silver Division.
"We've been focused on that. Nothing matters if we don't win," Moyer said. "Our goal is to finish 7-3 for the best record in a long time. It's a stepping stone on the way to a resurgence in the program."
Moyer said Riverdale is no slouch.
"Riverdale plays very hard. Their coach has them playing at a level that is really beyond some of their talent," Moyer said. "I really give them a lot of credit. They played really well last year. They hit us and ran to the ball. They came up a little bit short on talent."
The Rams will see a spread offense, with a defense featuring blitzing linebackers.
"They like to spread it out a little bit and get the ball to their athletes in space," Moyer said. "On the opposite side, their defense, especially their linebackers, come and hit you. They do what linebackers need to do."
If they win, that's when the fun math comes into play. Sturgeon said a variety of things need to happen for Upper Sandusky to clinch one of the three remaining playoff spots.
First, Wapakenota (6-3) needs to beat Kenton (6-3), because the Wildcats are competing for one of those spots. Columbia (8-1) needs to beat Lorain Clearview (7-2), another team competing for one of the spots, and Huron (6-3) needs to fall to Edison (5-4), but Sturgeon said the Rams could still get in if Huron wins.
"Those are the biggest three thorns," Sturgeon said.
A win by Lorain Clearview or Bishop Ready (7-1), who is facing 9-0 Bishop Hartley, would clinch a spot for the respective team. If both win, that leaves just one spot left.
If Clearview loses, then some secondary games need to fall in Upper's favor.
For starters, the Rams need Carey to beat Seneca East and Lucas to beat Crestline.
Of the teams Clearview has defeated, the Rams need Vermillion (2-7) to lose to Rocky River (5-4), Keystone (5-4) to lose to Black River (5-4) and John Marshall (2-7) to fall to Lincoln West (0-8).
Each of those results that come to fruition mean a better chance for the Rams to get into postseason for the first time since 2004.
"All within the realm of possibilities. We need to take care of ourselves and hope things work out that way," Moyer said with a chuckle. "We don't really have control over that. I find it astounding that someone could find that many variables in the equation.
"I think it's neat that our kids can look at the possibilities and say the state says we're not mathematically eliminated," he said. "We still have a chance."
at Colonel Crawford
Coaches: Jason Ratliff, Buckeye Central; Ryan Teglovic, Colonel Crawford
Records: Buckeye Central, 2-7, 1-5 NCC; Colonel Crawford, 7-2, 4-2 NCC.
Last year: Buckeye Central edged Colonel Crawford, 30-27, in overtime.
Outlook: Ratliff said something looks quite familiar when he watched film on Colonel Crawford.
"Crawford reminds me a lot of us last year," he said. "They have a lot of experience back, a good quarterback, a good running back and they play good defense as well."
Nate Klingenberger has thrown for 2,139 yards and 25 scores for the Eagles.
"When you watch him on film, he can throw the football. He's got a strong arm and he has two receivers he can throw to," Ratliff said. "We have to shut down the passing game, contain him from running the ball and make sure we're in position to not have any blown coverages."
Colonel Crawford needs a win to clinch the Silver Division outright and cinch a playoff spot, so Ratliff knows they have a motivated team.
"It's going to be a tough chore for us and we want to come out and have a solid performance for our seniors," Ratliff said.
The Bucks have 10 seniors but maybe none bigger than Michael Adkins, one of the few starters remaining from last year's state runner-up squad.
"He's a hard-nosed kid and we've had to rely on him a lot," Ratliff said. "Everyone knows that and keys on him and he still gets good numbers week in, week out."
2012: Fostoria 0-9, 0-6; Rossford 5-4, 3-3.
Coaches: Jim Kelly, Fostoria; Todd Drusback, Rossford.
Last year: Fostoria won 30-21.
Outlook: The stakes couldn't be much simpler: Rossford needs a 'W' for a winning season, and Fostoria just needs a win. Having that scenario in the final game just drives it home for the seniors.
"There isn't any other motivation that can be said at this point. They know what's a stake. Last week in pregame, I could tell that every senior had a different look in their eye, and they played like it, too. That's what we'll need this week," Kelly said. "That's a tough realization when you are a senior, that this is it.
"For us, I think it's bigger for us. We want a win. They want a winning season," he said. "I think, for us, it comes down to what we can do. We need to play our game and do what we know we can. We put the focus more on ourselves and what we need to do."
What the Redmen need to do is build on last week's team play, right from the start.
Despite falling 14-6 to Elmwood last Friday, the loss had much more to do with rainy playing conditions (10 fumbles, 2 lost) and two bad snaps on punts (leading to eight points) than effort.
One key to ending with a victory is to build on last week's positives, Kelly said, while another is get to work right away.
"We talked about that Saturday morning, getting back to it, bottling up the effort that we had and taking it one last week," he said.
"We haven't started well the whole year. We haven't had a drive to start a game," Kelly said. "That's a goal we have for Friday, to have a drive and set the tone early."
at North Baltimore
2012: Lakota 2-7, 0-6; North Baltimore 1-8, 0-6.
Coaches: Dave Vodika, Lakota; Dino Woodruff, North Baltimore.
Last year: North Baltimore won 30-29.
Outlook: The schedule says one game remains, but in Vodika's mind, the last chance for a league win in 2012 is just a little closer to where he wants the Raiders to be.
"I guess the easiest way for me to put it is, I don't see it as the end of this season. I still see it all as the first step in a process of Lakota football growing," he said.
"I think we've accomplished being competitive in all but two of our games," Vodika said. "Now's an opportunity for us to win, and that'd be awfully nice to finish the year with a win."
That hasn't happened since the Raiders beat then-Suburban Lakes League foe Woodmore 14-0 in 2006.
While Vodika had little to do with the years in between (he took over this year after serving as an assistant in 2011), he knows one area the Raiders need to improve: passing.
Lakota ranks dead last in the Midland Athletic League, averaging 37 yards per game.
"That's something we've got to work on because that kills us, because it allows them to put eight, nine or 10 in the box against us," Vodika said. "Until we can at least threaten people, they can bring as many people as they want.
"It's just too easy for people to defend us. We know what our problem is, and so does everybody else, and we've got to get better," he said. "If we could throw a couple early, who knows what kind of off explosion we could have."
That could come against the Tigers, who are last in the MAL against the run (240 ypg) and pass (180 ypg), and in overall defense (420 ypg).
North Baltimore has weapons, though.
Dalton Ishmael runs for 74.4 yards per game and has scored six times. Lane Bishop has caught 12 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown, with Jordan Watson (8-213) adding another receiving option.
Lakota will counter with Tiger Jaso (125-573, 5 TDs), Kody Brewer (57-399, 6 TDs) and Ed Racheter (75-287) running the ball.
"At this point right now, we know they're going to be ready, we know they're going to play hard. We'd just like to come out and play a complete game," Vodika said. "We think we're pretty equally matched and we want to go down there and play well. Why not? It's about time."
--The A-T sports staff