The Pymatuning Valley Lakers are in need of a victory to climb back to the .500 mark.
The Edgewood Warriors are desperate for a win, which would be their first of the 2013 season.
So when the two collide Friday night at Laker Stadium in the 12th all-time meeting between the two Ashtabula County schools and the Lakers’ homecoming game, something must give.
And the two coaches — Josh Franke for Edgewood (0-3) and Neal Croston for Pymatuning Valley — are well aware.
“They have a pretty good football team, better than what their record indicates,” Franke said of the Lakers, who fell at LaBrae last week, 21-13. “LaBrae is a great team and they lost to them in a close one, so we’re definitely going to prepare ourselves for a fight Friday night.
“It’s their homecoming game, so I know they’re going to have that extra incentive and they’re going to get after us.”
In turn, Croston realizes Franke’s unit, which took it on the chin in a major way at Division VI state-title contender Kirtland last week, 62-7, is going to come in with quite a sense of urgency for this one.
“They have a nice-sized line and with some good skill players,” he said. “They’ve got three loses, but they have played some tough opponents.”
The two teams had different challenges last week.
Edgewood knew playing Kirtland — on the road — was going to be its stiffest challenge of the season. And the Warriors were up to that challenge — for the first quarter, which was scoreless.
“Obviously, it was a little depressing and disappointing,” Franke said. “I’m a very optimistic person, so I went into that game fully anticipating a huge upset.
“After shutting them out in the first quarter, that obviously added to the optimism and just added insult to injury, I suppose.
“I know we had the right game plan going into the game. They made some good adjustments and we were unable to readjust on the fly and it hurt us in the long run.”
Meanwhile, the Lakers also faced quite a challenge, facing a 21-0 halftime deficit at LaBrae.
“We played a good second half, but three turnovers in the first half really hurt our efforts,” Croston said. “We just need to continue to work hard and focus on correcting our mistakes.
“Turnovers gave them a short field and us less opportunities on offense. They hit us with two big pass plays and a nice run by their tailback.
“In the second half, we hit them with a long run and a nice 11-play drive to put 14 on the board. On our last drive of the game, we moved the ball 20 to 20, but ran out of time in the end.”
A year ago in this matchup, Edgewood avenged a 58-20 whipping in 2011 (PV’s only win in the 11-game all-time series) with a 53-23 smacking last fall at Corlew Stadium.
The coaches have good ideas what to expect Friday night.
“Offensively, they try to spread you out to run the ball — that doesn’t mean they won’t pass because they are capable of doing so, but they have a talented backfield and take advantage of that,” Franke said of the Lakers. “They’ll go both under center and in shotgun, and use two different guys at quarterback, so it requires you defensively to really be focused on what is going on and what personnel is in.
“Defensively, they play a 3-5 and pinch the middle, making it difficult to run the ball. We will have to test them through the air.”
And Franke — as all opponents of the Lakers do — has one particular major concern.
“Quintin Ratliff is the wheels that makes their car go, that’s no secret,” he said. “We are coaching up our guys to make sure we know where he’s at on the field at all times. If he’s at quarterback, we have to be prepared for the designed run or scramble, but he can throw as well.
“He also lines up at running back and wide receiver, so we’ll have a scout-team player designated as him this week to try and prepare for him the best we can.
“At the top of our scouting report for defense this week, in big bold letters, it says, ‘Stop No. 6!’ If we can do that, I think we leave there with a win Friday.”
“They run multiple formations on offense,” Croston said. “Matt Fitchet leads their line and they have a new quarterback in Alex Wisnyai. Riis Smith, Anthonie Magda, Connor McLaughlin are all playmakers for them on offense.
“On defense, they are aggressive and are led by Anthony Monda and Alex Spangler.”
While the Lakers come into this one healthy, the same can’t be said for the Warriors.
“Unfortunately, we did lose Alex Spangler for the season,” Franke said. “He’s been battling shoulder problems his whole career and last Friday night was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“You can’t replace an Alex Spangler and what he means to our team as a player and a leader. When he went out last Friday, that’s when Kirtland finally scored, and our offense didn’t get another first down against their first team... what’s that tell you about how important he is to this team? He will be sorely missed, but we have to prepare the next guy in line on offense and defense to take over for him and they’ll be fine with some practice reps this week.”
The respective coaches have checklists to record a W on Friday night.
“No. 1, stop Ratliff, no matter where he lines up on Friday,” Franke said. “No. 2, win the turnover battle.
“No. 3, minimize our penalties.”
“First, turnovers — the team with less usually wins,” Croston said. “Second, limit big plays on defense.
“Third, keep the chains moving on offense.”