PDT Sports Writer
There’s a different feeling when two football rivals meet on the final week of the regular season.
Not only are bragging rights and conference championships on the line, playoff scenarios can typically be tied into the outcome of the game. All of these will bode true Friday night when Valley, ranked fourth in this week’s Associated Press Division VI poll, travels to Minford to close out the 2013 regular season campaign.
The Indians clinched at least a share of their third-straight SOC II title and extended their regular season winning streak to 29 games last week with a 10-7 win at Wheelersburg. Although a No. 2 seed has essentially been secured in next week’s Division VI, Region 21 quarterfinals, Valley coach Darren Crabtree feels the win for his club is needed for momentum and legacy.
“The gold football by yourself says a lot,” Crabtree said. “… Like any other group of seniors, they understand that they are three-time league champions but they want to be 10-0 by themselves their senior year, not when they were sophomores and not when they were juniors.”
A trend Crabree is pleased to have continue other than a long winning streak is the overall health of his team. While there are still some bumps and bruises that come with the grind of a regular season, Crabtree will call upon the same starting lineup on both sides of the ball that he has in the prior nine weeks.
For Brent Daniels’ Falcon squad, their playoff picture hinges on a win over the Indians and some outside help. Although a piece of the SOC II crown is no longer in the picture, Minford is 10th in Division IV, Region 14 as a total of 10 teams are fighting for the final four spots in the region.
“The kids are still excited about playing, there’s still a lot on the line for us,” Daniels said. “We can cause a share of the title, we can still possibly get into the playoffs and you’re playing for the backyard rivalry that we have.”
The Falcons kept their playoff hopes alive after last week’s 14-6 win at Waverly. While his team is experiencing some injuries, Daniels knows that his senior class wants to pick up a win in their final home game.
“They’re down to their last four quarters that they are going to play on our home field,” Daniels said. “That means a little something to them.”
“Most of these kids have been with me for four years and I think that it’s finally starting to sink in that (they’re) not going to run out of the tunnel again. They’ve had a good week of practice and I think that they are prepared.”
Crabtree admitted rivalry contests can prove to be a struggle. The key heading into the game has been a positive week of practice.
“Very upbeat, working very hard and I think they’re excited about the opportunity (that’s) ahead of them,” Crabtree said. “At the same time, they want to make sure that they are the champs of the SOC by themselves.”
When the season started, Crabtree did not think the conference champion would be undefeated. But with 17 seniors on the squad, he credits the leadership from the upperclassmen as well as the unselfishness to their success.
As the last team to hand Valley a regular season loss, senior Jared McCray was a part of Minford’s 7-6 win in 2010 in Lucasville as he was the starting center as a freshman. With such a short distance between the two schools, Daniels knows familiarity breeds contempt.
“They pretty much know what we’re going to do and we pretty much know what they’re going to do,” Daniels said. “It’s going to be a physical game and the lack of turnovers is going to be a key factor in it. You’ve got a lot of seniors on both teams that have been around these battles we’ve had for the last four or five years.”
When it comes to scouting this week’s opponent, Daniels realizes that his troops are going up against a team with multiple weapons.
“They’re not a real fancy football team, just a very good, solid football team,” Daniels said.
The biggest challenge for the Indians will be to stop a wing-T offense that is implemented as efficiently as the Falcons. Crabtree said it all lies on the shoulders of Minford’s starting quarterback Cody Stapleton.
“When you watched them play Portsmouth this year, they showed how good of a football team they were that week,” Crabtree said. “The thing that scares you to death is that they are capable of repeating that performance. If they repeat that performance, we’re going to have our hands full.”
Valley won last year’s encounter 7-0 and also took a 38-13 outcome the last time the two teams met in Minford.
Cody Leist can be reached at 353-3101, ext. 294, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking sports news, follow Cody on Twitter @CodyLeist.