WINTERSVILLE - It's Rivalry Week in the Buckeye 8, and that means Indian Creek and Edison renew their battle for the Traveling Trophy.
As with most rivalries records go out the window, and it is no different for the Wildcats (2-7) and the Redskins (8-1), as both teams look to end their season at the other's expense..
"You always want to beat your rival whether you're 9-0 or 0-9," said Edison head coach Mike McKenzie. "Getting a win in this game is nice no matter what the situation coming in is."
There is an added situation for the Redskins as they sit fifth in the Ohio Division III Region 11 rankings, and are in need of a win to help secure a spot in the postseason. Six spots are clinched in the region with Indian Creek and No. 7 Granville looking to remain in the top eight while No. 9 Poland Seminary, No. 11 Philo, and No. 17 Cardinal Mooney all remain in the hunt.
Even with that Redskins head coach Andrew Connor and company are focused on more immediate issues.
"I think the biggest thing, and I told them this myself, is the implications are we need to enjoy being a team one last time," he said. "No one knows what the weekend holds. This group has been together since November of last year.
"The important thing is that we are playing for each other this Saturday, not the playoffs or anything else. Our motivation is this could be it. We have a really special group of kids.
"Enjoy one last game together, especially one last time at Kettlewell."
In order to enjoy this season's final game at Kettlewell Memorial Stadium, the Redskins will have to deal with an Edison team that has showed marked improvement over the past few weeks, including a 35-22 win at Martins Ferry and 26-20 loss to Bellaire where they were just one-yard short of tying the game as time expired.
"We told them they've gotten much, much better," said Connor. "They impressed us how with they played at Martins Ferry in the win, and how close they were against Bellaire. It would be crazy not to give them our best because if not we'll be in trouble."
First on the Wildcats list of musts if they are to pull the upset is to stop Indian Creek's playmaking quarterback Alex Young. Young has thrown for 771 yards and 10 scores this season while adding 326 yards and eight scores on the ground. He has also returned two punts, a kickoff, and an interception for scores and kicked a pair of field goals.
"Speed is the number one thing," said McKenzie of what makes Young dangerous. "He's one of the fastest kids we've seen all year. What makes him dangerous too is the ball is in his hands every play.
"We've seen where he's been able to make big plays out of broken plays so we have to stay alert. He has great ball skills as well. Everyone saw the pick against Harrison Central.
"He's a heady player, he knows what's going on on the field, and he sees a lot out there on the field."
Young is joined by a talented group of running backs led by Logan Woods (123-826-8), Tran Huynh (58-494-6), and Blake Roar (69-317-5).
"Woods first of all stands out," said McKenzie "He has speed. He's kind of like Doren Thomas is that he makes one cut and goes. He hits full speed quickly. He's not like (Maurtice) Hython who bounces around, he hits the hole quickly, and he doesn't stop off the cut. He's full speed right off his cut.
"The have a stable of backs besides Woods with Huynh and Roar being talented backs as well.
"(Frankie) Kamarec is very dangerous on the outside. That's what makes them so tough to defend. It's not one guy they rely on. They have a bunch of guys that can make plays. They aren't afraid to put the ball in anyone's hands at any point in the game."
Kamarec leads the Redskins receiving corp with 23 grabs for 285 yards and five scores.
"I think the biggest thing is offensively those kids root for each other," said Connor. "When you have so many kids people sometimes get mad because they don't get the ball enough.
"When these kids are not in the game they cheer for the others. Says a lot for our kids and for the offense. Makes it difficult to focus on one guy because we have so many involved in our offense right now."
The Redskins defense will have the task of stopping an Edison offense led by the trio of quarterback Nolan Marcus, tailback Chris Graziani, and receiver Rich Springer. Marcus is a duel threat having thrown for 1255 yards and five TDs with 560 and nine scores rushing. Graziani has racked up 814 rushing and 11 touchdowns while Springer has emerged as Marcus' favorite target with 24 catches for 487 and six scores.
"I think they are one of those teams that get going with their run game," said Connor. "We have to stop that first. Not that they aren't a good passing team because they make some big plays there.
"Marcus and Graziani do great with the read part of their offense, and to be successful we have to stop that."
McKenzie is impressed with the Redskins defense , and knows his offense will have to limit mistakes if it is to be successful.
"The run to the ball well," he said. "Their safeties are very good as run stoppers. They'll play them five, six, or seven yards off the line of scrimmage. They mix things up in their base 4-3 set.
"Obviously they are strong in their front four. They can rotate a number of guys at defensive tackle which keeps them fresh.
"(Shane) Winland is a three-year starter at linebacker. He controls the middle. He can run as well, but he really dominates from tackle to tackle."
Kickoff for the Redskins final game of the season at Kettlewell Memorial Stadium is 7 p.m. Saturday.
"I think the one big thing is this will be the last trip to Kettlewell as a team no matter what happens," said Connor. "It has been a remarkable four-year stint for this senior class. Our kids are excited to get the chance to play there one more time."