SALINEVILLE - Southern Local coach Mike Skrinjar knew how much was riding on his team's game at Columbiana last week.
The Indians and Clippers squared off in a battle of two of the Inter-Tri County League's lower tier's best with a shot at the playoffs on the line for both squads.
Both of the Division V, Region 17 teams knew that if playing in Week 11 was to be a possibility, a win was a must.
Unfortunately for Southern, a 26-14 decision went in favor of Columbiana.
"Our focus is that we are going to win and lose games ourselves. It's not about what the other team is doing," Skrinjar said.
"There were opportunities in that game for us to make a move. There were some points we left on the field and some things we need to fix. But, overall I believe we represented ourselves well."
The bus ride home was a long one last week for the Indians (4-2). However, with tonight's game against rival Wellsville, Skrinjar knew his team didn't have long to dwell about the loss.
"The emotions were flying high after the game," said Skrinjar who has posted a 21-6 record during his time at Southern. "When we lost, it took the wind out of them. But, our mentality is that we're playing for our seniors. Every moment is important. That bus ride home, it sets in, but once we come in on Saturday morning we move on. Our next week starts on Saturday.
"There's still a lot of season left. The lower tier can still shake out a lot of ways and it starts this week against Wellsville."
The Tigers' journey to the annual "Black and Blue Brawl" has been a rollercoaster ride.
It has included the ups, like a 42-13 win over rival Toronto in the opener and a 48-0 rout against Sebring last week, but also the downs, like a 45-0 loss to Oak Glen and a 41-14 disappointment against Lowellville.
"We weren't playing as a team the first five weeks," Wellsville coach Dave Skinner said. "It was too many individuals. We've got to be unselfish. Do your job and help the guy next to you do his."
Regardless of where each team finishes the season, both coaches realize this heated rivalry will be a lasting memory for those involved, whether good or bad.
"To these kids, it's a very important game," Skrinjar said. "It's a backyard rivalry. The fans get into this. It builds when the fans talk it up. The place will be packed and it creates a championship atmosphere. Our guys get amped for this game. Our guys will be up and ready."
Skinner said he's going to leave his rah-rah pre-game speech at home tonight.
"I won't have to say a word to my guys," he said. "They know who we're playing and what they're up against. They know it's not going to be easy."
The Indians have a potent offense, averaging 35.3 points per game.
Senior quarterback Luke Griffith is 99-of-151 passing for 1,486 yards with 15 touchdowns and six interceptions. His two top targets are J.J. Napierkowski (51 catches, 723 yards, 7 touchdowns) and Jared Shilot (31-554, 6 TD).
Skinner was eager to sing the Indians' praises.
"I don't think you can completely stop them," Skinner said . "We'll just try to slow them down. I can't see anyone stopping them. They've got the best quarterback in the area. He gets rid of the ball so quick. They've got probably the two best wide receivers. Probably the best offensive line, maybe the best defense.
"They're the best team around, hands down. They've got good coaching, special teams, you name it. It's a fact. I've seen the film. We've got our work cut out for us. I'm not sure what we're going to do. We might be in trouble."
And when asked about finding a crack in the Indians' armor, Skinner had this to say: "Weakness? Well, I'm not sure if their water boy gets out on the field fast enough. That's about the only weakness I see that maybe their water boy is a little late coming out."
Skrinjar had a succinct response when he was told of Skinner's comments.
"I'll just say, 'Thank you and see you Friday," he said.
But Skrinjar also had some nice compliments to pay this year's Wellsville team.
"Their perimeter speed can be an issue," he said. "Every year (Marcus) Moxley and (Brendon) Carr get better. (Zack) Mellott, their sophomore, is stepping up for them. (Jordan) Sloan has stepped in at quarterback and runs their offense.
"They're more of a well-rounded threat than they were before. We'll have to bring our 'A' game. They've got a good, solid core of guys with experience."
Skinner's squad will have the difficult task of playing in Salineville, a place where they haven't won since at least 2005 when the rivalry was renewed.
"Sometimes you play good some places and others you don't for whatever reason," Skinner said. "But I don't feel like they have a jinx on us or anything. They've got their football crazies out there that'll make some noise, but my guys will handle that just fine."
Southern has won the last two meetings, 27-7, last year in Wellsville and 52-13 in 2010 in Salineville.
According to Skrinjar, with both teams having extensive talent, the game will come down to execution.
"It's going to be about mental toughness," he said. "Who can maintain focus? Who makes the least amount of mistakes? I think it makes for a great matchup."