WINTERSVILLE - Each week in the Buckeye 8, there's game that has major implications toward the postseason.
This week's site for that one is Kettlewell Memorial Stadium in Wintersville.
The red-hot Indian Creek Redskins will play host to Harrison Central, which is trying to rebound after a bitter loss to Bellaire last Friday in Cadiz.
Both coaches - Andrew Connor and Justin Kropka - are stressing to their players this week that they can't get looking at the past.
The Huskies scored 28 points in the first half last week and were blanked in the final 24 minutes and fell on a last-second field goal by the Big Reds.
"I think kids get over things faster than the coaches do most of the time," Kropka said. "Our kids will be ready to play. The good and bad thing about high-school aged kids is they lose and they're ready to go again quickly, but when you win, they sometimes forget what it was that got them to that point."
The Redskins, meanwhile, are seeking their fourth win in a row since losing to St. Clairsville in Week 3. They earned a cherished victory at Martins Ferry last Friday.
"That was definitely a big win for our program," Connor said. "We were down a couple of starters, lost two more starters during the game and the kids responded. We lost the turnover battle, had some penalties, but we found a way to get it done. That's just a credit to our kids."
The battle of U.S. 22 has been an entertaining series since it started a few years back.
"It's turned into a really good rivalry," Connor said. "The schools are close in proximity to each other and obviously it's a big game for the postseason."
The Redskins made a big leap in the Division III computer rankings. They're sitting in third, while the Huskies are now holding down the eighth spot.
"We're looking at this week pretty much the same way we looked at last week," Kropka said. "We feel if we can win this week, we'll probably be in the playoffs. Creek is a really good team worth a lot of points. I just want to see us play well and play up to our potential."
Each time Connor has turned on the tape of the Huskies, the same things pop into his head.
"We have to keep Harrison Central from imposing its will on us because that's what they like to do with that physical running game," Connor said.
Slowing the Huskies' offense - and more specifically their ground game - has been a challenge for every team. Senior tailback Maurtice Hython is the area's leading rusher with 1,367 yards and 14 touchdowns. He's been held under 100 yards just once.
"It think it's a few things that make him hard to stop," said Connor. "I think he's a very physical runner. The other thing he does is he's elusive in a pile.
"We've seen clips where he's completely stopped in a pile and he shoots out and breaks a big run. He's physical and elusive which makes him so good."
Senior quarterback Rashaen Mitchell has also been solid this season. The 6-5 southpaw has thrown for 959 yards and nine touchdowns. He's also ran for 197 stripes.
"The one thing we've noticed is he has a very strong arm based on his ability to throw back across the field," said Connor. "He throws from one hash mark across to the other better than most quarterbacks we've seen.
"Besides the obvious that he's a great athlete and can take off at any time, it's his arm strength that impresses us."
Nate Maykowski and Nate Olmstead are also key contributors to the offense. Olmstead is the team's leading receiver with 17 receptions for 417 yards and four scores.
Senior standout Nick Pelegreen has proven to be a game changer on both sides of the ball. From his tight end spot, he's caught 12 passes for 214 yards.
"We have to get as many guys to the ball as we can," Connor said. "If you try to tackle (Hython) one-on-one, he's got the advantage, so we need two two four helmets around the ball. Those are situations we'll work on this week."
The Indian Creek defense has been impressive, giving up just 203 yards and 16.71 points per game. Standouts have been Shane Winland with 51 total tackles and two interceptions and Montel McClelland with 38 total tackles, eight sacks, and 25 quarterback hurries. The Redskins have sacked opposing quarterbacks 22 times this season and forced 17 turnovers.
The Redskins' offense starts with athletic senior quarterback Alex Young, who's been brilliant during the Skins' winning streak. He's coming off a game in which he accounted for three touchdowns.
He passed for 127 yards and ran for 60 more. On the season he's accumulated 526 and five scores through the air, 268 and eight touchdowns on the ground, as well as returning two punts and a kickoff for TDs. He's also the placekicker.
"We have to be disciplined (defensively)," Kropka said. "The good thing is we can get back to where we can play our base defense. We've gotten away from that the last three weeks because of the passing offenses we've played. We'll get back to a 40 front and do a lot of the stuff we like to do."
Logan Woods, coming off a 167-yard performance against the Riders, leads the team 674 yards and five touchdowns. Tran Huynh ranks second with 382 and three scores.
"Logan has always been a very talented running back and he's been able to display that more recently," said Connor. "He does well on outside and to other people's surprise, but not ours, he runs well between he tackles.
"He'd be the first to tell you its been the offensive line's play that has given the running game a kick start this year."
The 'Skins offense got a boost with the return of Blake Roar in the backfield. Roar scored a rushing and a receiving touchdown against the Ferry and has 230 yards and five scores on the ground this year.
Frankie Kamarec is one of the top receivers for the Creek. He made seven catches past week and has 19 grabs for 175 yards and two scores on the season. Corey Goodrich has grabbed 11 passes for 209 yards and three touchdowns.
"Indian Creek really does a good job of playing to its strengths," Kropka said. "They put their kids in spots to make plays and win games without throwing the baby out with the bath water."
Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.