Southern Local and Columbiana football have mostly gone their separate ways since the Tri-County League merged with the Inter-County League after the 2005 football season.
There was never much thought of the two meeting up again when the Inter-Tri County League tiers were layed out, but that changed when Columbiana was sent to the lower tier this season.
Now the two are not only battling for a league championship, but a playoff berth in Division V, Region 17 as well.
The Indians (4-1, 2-0 in the ITCL lower tier) have not fared well in big games in the last several years and even faltered 63-14 to ITCL upper tier leader Crestview in the non-league finale.
"We learned from the Crestview game," Southern coach Mike Skrinjar said. "I think the kids will be ready to showcase what they've worked for this year."
Columbiana (4-1, 2-0) also lost to Crestview, but the score was much closer at 37-33. That does concern Columbiana coach Bob Spaite a bit.
"We saw that last year," Spaite said. "We saw where Crestview beat Springfield rather soundly and thought since we played Crestview close, we'd be able to deal with Springfield too. That didn't happen. We ran 52 plays to their 23 plays. They hit a few big passes and won 22-19. All it took was a few big plays. That's why Southern scares me. They have the guys who can do that."
As for the playoffs, the loser of this game will likely not go due to the mostly Division VI dynamics of the lower tier. It's the last Division V game on the schedule for both teams and with Region 17 shaping up to be very tough, it's a "must-win" if either team is thinking about a Week 11 stage.
"Oh, it's absolutely a must-win for both of us," Spaite said. "I think Southern is a lot like Steubenville Central. They have a great QB and quality receivers. But unlike Steubenville Central, Southern has a good running game, too. We're not going to be able to drop everyone back and just rush a few like we did against Steubenville."
Skrinjar said the key to the game for the Indians will be tackling.
"With their speed in (Britton Steiginga) and power with (Brandon Hacker), we're going to have to rally around the ball and tackle as a team," Skrinjar said. "That's something we didn't do against Crestview."
Defending champ Western Reserve (3-2, 2-0) is the other team in the thick of the ITCL lower tier hunt. The Blue Devils are at 1-4 Lowellville on Friday. Leetonia (3-2, 1-1) has rebound on its mind as it hosts losers of three-straight McDonald (2-3, 0-2). Wellsville (2-3, 0-2) will attempt to get back on track after big losses to Columbiana and Lowellville to start the ITCL lower tier slate as the Tigers host winless Sebring.
ITCL upper tier
State-ranked Crestview is sitting pretty with a at 5-0 and 2-0 in the ITCL upper tier. The general consensus among coaches is no one is close to them in the league.
The Rebels head to Springfield (2-3, 1-1) on Friday. The Tigers have been all over the map in the early going, but the Rebels are not going to take them lightly.
"It's one game at a time for us and this week it's Springfield," Crestview coach Paul Cusick said.
Lisbon (2-3, 1-1) recorded its first league win of any kind in 43 tries with a 48-34 win over upper tier-new comer Jackson-Milton (0-5, 0-2) on Friday.
"It has definitely been a long time for us," Lisbon coach Jim Tsilimos said. "It's not really something you think about until you lose on Friday nights. Then it would hit you that we haven't won in a while."
The Blue Devils will try to not to start a new losing streak on Friday at United (3-2, 1-1). The Eagles lost a tough one last Friday as South Range hit a field goal with 2:34 left to secure the victory.
United coach Mike Ward said his team was hurt by the loss, but they can't afford to wallow in it.
"Lisbon-United is a game where you throw out the records," Ward said. "Even though we're on a long winning streak against them, we have to be careful."
Ward said United starting quarterback Garrett Beech did endure a concussion against South Range. Ward said Beech would consult with his doctor during the week to see if he could obtain clearance to play on Friday.
In other action, Mineral Ridge (2-3, 1-1) tries to recover from a heavily one-sided loss to Crestview as the Rams travel to winless East Palestine. South Range (3-2, 2-0) looks to keep its title hopes alive as it entertains winless Jackson-Milton for the first time since the ICL days.
Lisbon and United both have scored 131 points on the season, an average of 26.2 points a game.
Crestview is the only area team that is holding opponents to less than 20 points per game this season. Crestview opponents are scoring just 14.4 points per game. The next best is Leetonia at 20.2 points.
The Jeep Jamboree in Columbiana is not holding its annual parade through town Friday. The event website said it was due to Columbiana's home football game. The Jeep Jamboree will be held Friday and Saturday at 4Wheel Drive Hardware.