Despite winning games by an average 44-point margin and doing all the right things along the way, the undefeated Crestview football team has yet to tie down its fifth Inter-Tri County League upper tier championship in-a-row.
Thanks to South Range ripping off seven straight wins, the Rebels have to win on Friday to obtain a title and their first perfect regular season in school history.
Crestview coach Paul Cusick is looking at it on a much smaller scale however.
"This is a championship game, first and foremost," Cusick said. "It we win that everything else will take care of itself."
Yes, one more win will give the Rebels the first perfect regular season in school history, but there is still a variable outside of Crestview's grasp. That's the playoffs.
Crestview is in already, but a home game in Div. V, Region 17 is far from a sure thing. For that to happen, the Rebels will have to beat South Range and hope for Youngstown Ursuline to come up short against Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary's. There are other paths to the home game for the Rebels, but this one is the most plausible.
"Having been both home and away in the playoffs, it's always nice to get that extra home game," Cusick said. "I do think that any way it shakes out our kids will be excited and we'll go wherever. It doesn't really matter."
One concern the Rebels have going into this season finale is game fitness. The Crestview starters have not played a full game since the first week against Columbiana.
"It's really a concern," Cusick said. "We've talked about it in coaches' meetings. We've had to adjust our in-season conditioning. Before we'd be easing off about now so we'd keep our legs. Now we're keeping up strenuous conditioning throughout the week. It's something they don't like, but they understand we still have to train like we're going out and ready to play four quarters."
Due to the fact that they've played so little, there is also a lot less game footage of the Rebel starters for opponents to use. South Range (7-2, 6-0) isn't too worried about that though.
"You don't need all of that," South Range coach Dan Yeagley said. "You know what they're doing. It's not like the first time we've ever played them. We know the offense. We know the defense. They haven't changed in years. It doesn't matter if we're watching the first team or second team or 2010, 2009 or 2005. It's all the same stuff. They'll look at us and say the same thing."
Despite being in such a great position, the Raiders will be without starting quarterback Ross Stoffer in the finale. He was injured in the win over Springfield two weeks ago.
"It's part of the game," Yeagley said. "You coach long enough, you're going to see things like that. Ross is a great leader and even Friday night against Lisbon, he was out there in a wheel chair coaching our backup Ryan Miller."
Yeagley said he's thrilled his team has gotten to this point with a chance to make this a really memorable season after an uneven start.
"The kids have grown up a lot since those first two losses," Yeagley said. "They learned from those losses and now we're in position. It's awesome."
This game will also be important outside the parameters of the gridiron. Crestview's football community has designated Friday as an "orange game" to support Rebel junior Dustin Gorby who is undergoing treatments for leukemia. The Rebels and Raiders will both wear orange items on their uniform to honor the player who was diagnosed with the disease in January.
"It's more than just football," Yeagley said. "We're two communities and there's a young man in need. We want to show our support to him too. Even when they had the spaghetti dinner for him, a lot of our players and myself and some of my coaches went to show our support and to help him pay some bills. I can't even imagine what he and his family are going through. If we can help in any way, we will. It's the big picture."
"That's really generous for them to do that," Cusick said. "I think it's great that their team and coaches are real supportive. (Yeagley) has been like this the whole time. Every chance I talk to him, he's always asking how he's doing. He truly cares about our kids and making sure everyone is OK."
Cusick said Gorby hasn't been at all of the games this season because of the dynamic of the illness, but he's in good spirits.
"He's definitely an inspiration to our guys," Cusick said.