Leetonia coach Matt Altomare just has to laugh when Columbiana coach Bob Spaite compares the Bears to villagers "defending the wives and the children against the Barbarians."
"I don't know what to think about a lot of that stuff, but I guess it's a compliment as far as how hard we play them," Altomare said. "You know Bob though, he's one of a kind with the quotes he puts out there."
Leetonia (4-2, 2-1 in the Inter-Tri County League lower tier) has been the surprise of the season so far and the Bears' good start to the season might be exactly what the doctor ordered for a rivalry game that will count in the league standings for the first time since 2005.
"It's exciting to be playing a rivalry game in week seven in October instead of August or September," Altomare said.
Leetonia will play at Columbiana on Friday night.
Spaite admits that the league status of this game will give a shot-in-the-arm to the Bears.
"Now they will be all juiced up," Spaite said. "They will have their 75 bonfires and be burning coconuts. They will be amped up and ready to go. There's no doubt about it."
As for the Clippers (5-1, 3-0 in the ITCL lower tier), they'll likely be without starting quarterback Nate Huk and all-around best player Britton Steiginga, who both suffered injuries against Southern last week.
"I know they'll have a lot of questions coming into this game and I'm sure we'll find out what's going on with their players by the time Friday comes around, but we'll prepare like they're going to be at full strength," Altomare said.
Spaite is convinced that the game will come down to who plays the hardest because "the best" sometimes don't get the win in this feud.
"I can't tell you the number of times in the series where the team with the best players did not win," Spaite said. "It goes both ways too."
Despite coaching against the Bears for many years, Spaite still has trouble wrapping his head around the intensity this rivalry produces from ages ago.
"Until we both started making the playoffs on a regular basis in the early 2000s, they actually had an alumni game," Spaite said. "They had guys 40 and 50 years old suiting up. That's insane, but it's part of the whole Columbiana-Leetonia deal. That's just what they do."
In other lower tier action, league co-leaders Western Reserve hosts winless Sebring and Southern (4-2, 2-1) will try to right the ship against rival Wellsville (3-3, 1-2).