If the prep football season were to end today, Western Reserve would be in the playoffs in Division V, Region 18.
South Central would be out in the same division and region, as the Trojans are 11th.But there's still five weeks left and both schools are aware that Friday's contest between the two at Western Reserve is important.
"It's a big game,'' Roughriders coach Mike Stoll said. "We take it one game at a time. This week there's a lot of points with South Central.''
Both teams are 4-1 overall, 2-0 in the Firelands Conference entering the game.
The Roughriders fell to Norwayne 35-28 to Norwayne in Week 3.
"We know have a lot of work to do,'' Stoll said. "Too many penalties and we need to cut back on turnovers. I'm proud of the kids' efforts. They've been working hard and conditioning.''
Still, 2008 has been much better for Western, which went 4-6 last season after suffering some significant injuries. Junior Brett Pickens and senior Clyde Hartley are working in the backfield behind senior quarterback Brent Stoll.
Pickens leads the way with 604 yards rushing, followed by Stoll at 466 and Hartley 419.
"We're spreading the ball around a little bit, mixing the pass and the run,'' Stoll said. "We have some other weapons. D.J. Hall has done a good job at receiver. It comes down to our offensive linemen.''
That group includes senior Derik Lane and junior Matt Wyant at tackles, junior Brett Grandy and sophomore Seth Yaussy at guards, senior Jordan McPeek at center and sophomore Ethan Patrick at tight end.
Jeff Cook, South Central's second-year coach, knows what Western has to offer, especially up front.
"Western is tough to prepare for,'' he said. "They're not what you call flashy, but they have the ability to score from anywhere on the field. Pickens is the guy that makes them go, but you can't focus just on him. You have to prepare your kids for a physical game. They have the ability to dominate the lines.''
South Central also has the ability to put points.
The Trojans put up 54 points against Mapleton Friday.
"I think coach (Chris) Harkness has had an immediate impact on our skilled kids,'' Cook said. "He's taught our kids techniques that they're able to take on the field."
Senior quarterback Alex Uselton has thrown for 1,171 yards. Senior running back Josh Kirk, returned after a two-game absence because of an injury, to amass 254 total yards against the Mounties.
He has 438 yards on the season. Senior wide receiver Josh Wireman is the team's leading receiver with 28 receptions for 438 yards.
"Alex has done an excellent job of spreading the ball around and it was great to have Josh back in the backfield,'' Cook said. "Our offensive lineman blocked with all the pressure Mapleton brings.''
Cook would like to shore up his defense, one that allowed the Mounties 32 points and Monroeville 28 on Sept. 12.
"It's a new system and we're still trying to work the kinks out,'' he said. "They need more experience, but are getting the hang of it.''
South Central's lone loss was 26-13 to Crestline in Week 3.
"I'd like to replay that one,'' Cook said. "But the kids also learned some valuable lessons. I'm happy our kids have worked hard and the attitude they bring every day.''
Stoll said his team will have to be prepared for the Trojans.
"The quarterback has done a good job of throwing and running,'' he said. "They have a couple of receivers that can catch the ball. They have some weapons. They're pretty balanced and (Nick) Hamilton, the tight end, is a good blocker, but he gets out on passes too. He's always impressed me.''
Even though there's still more football to be played, the winner will be remain undefeated in the league (along with St. Paul, which doesn't play until Saturday).
"I want us to stay focused each week in practice and concentrate on one play at a time in the game,'' Cook said. "It makes it fun. We want our kids to compete every time out.''