Crestview is so close to its first undefeated football season in school history, it can smell it.
The Rebels (8-0, 5-0 in the Inter-Tri County League upper tier) are averaging a mind-blowing 55 points per game heading into Friday's game at East Palestine. That's 443 points through eight games.
East Palestine (1-7, 1-5) has shown glimpes of being capable to run with the bigger boys, but depth prevents any sustained quality effort.
"They say there's lessons to be learned in losing," East Palestine coach Gare Mattes said. "If that's the case, we're the most educated team in the league."
Mattes and the Bulldogs won't be taking this one easily. It's the seniors last home game and it's a bit of a rivalry, so there's that slight chance something unexpected could happen.
"(Collin) Gilbert and (Nick) Blower can hurt you at any time," Mattes said. "They have good team speed and decent size. The offensive line sustains their blocks. Their defense is very aggressive, but it does have weak spots. At the same time, they compensate well for those weaknesses. Every team has them and if you can compensate for those weaknesses, you're doing well. They also have a lot of coaches and can spend a lot of time with each kid. It's difficult competing against that."
Crestview coach Paul Cusick is aware that a potential regular season finale league championship game with South Range is on the horizon. He said the challenge will be keeping players focused the rest of the way.
"It's all about worrying about the details at this point," Cusick said. "You try to keep the kids focused on what they can control and not let them get sidetracked with all of the other stuff going on."
As far as the playoffs are concerned, the Rebels are sitting in the fourth spot in Div. V, Region 17. Drew Pasteur's Fantastic50, a web site which handles in-depth predictions of computer rating scenarios, predicts that the Rebels will hang onto that fourth spot if they win out. The web site points to matchups with St. Thomas Aquinas (37 percent chance) or Youngstown Ursuline (35 percent chance) in the first round.
Co-ITCL upper tier South Range (6-2, 5-0) has won six straight and is at Lisbon (2-5, 1-5) on Friday. If the result goes the Raiders way, the regular season finale will not only be for the league title, but a playoff berth for South Range will likely be on the line.
Fantastic50 has the Raiders with a 81 percent chance of making the playoffs if they win out. Seven wins gives the Raiders a two percent chance of extending the season.
ITCL lower tier
Columbiana has been trying to hold things together for a while now after key injuries started popping up at an alarming rate. That all fell a part for the Clippers on Friday when Lowellville snuck a 20-8 victory past them.
Columbiana fell to 6-2 and 4-1 in the ITCL lower tier with the loss. Western Reserve, who the Clippers host in the regular season finale, took sole possession of first place in the league with its win over Southern Local.
Now Columbiana is scrambling to salvage at one point seemed like a promising season.
"We're backed into a corner and have to fight our way out," Columbiana coach Bob Spaite said.
The Clippers will have to do it without junior R.J. Rankin who broke his leg in the Lowellville game. Rankin, who had a total of 167 yards rushing the past two games, had seen more time at that position in the wake of Britton Steiginga's absence.
Spaite said he's unsure of when Steiginga or quarterback Nate Huk will return from injury. If they do, it's likely both will be limited in what they can do.
"That's no excuse though," Spaite said. "We have to play with the guys we have. In that regard, I have to thank our offensive and defensive lines for being warriors and keeping us in games. Those guys have done a tremendous job."
This week the Clippers are at McDonald (4-4, 2-3). From a league standpoint, it's a must-win for Columbiana. It might be that way as far as the playoffs are concerned too.
Columbiana has to win one more game to be in a good position to extend the season. McDonald will certainly be the better chance to do so.
Even though the Devils have won their last two games against Lowellville and Wellsville, it has been an erratic season. They also lost to Western Reserve by two points, while taking it on the chin to Southern and Leetonia.
Speaking of Leetonia, the Bears (5-3, 3-2) are in position to still make the playoffs in Div. VI, Region 21. They host Southern (5-3, 3-2) this week.
"Anytime you can get to week nine and are playing for something, that's a good thing," Leetonia coach Matt Altomare said. "Early in the season we really didn't know how things would go, but the kids have continued playing hard. In that sense, it has been a lot of fun as a coach."
The Bears have an 11 percent chance of making the playoffs if they win out according to Fantastic50. Southern's ability in the passing game will certainly make the Bears earn every inch of ground they get.
"They have done a good job of creating a lot of different looks on offense," Altomare said. "That might give us some matchup problems, so we're going to have to work hard in practice this week."