If the playoffs kicked off today, Frontier High would be playing in Ohio Division VII, and Fort Frye High would not in Division VI.
The Todd Bradford-coached Cougars are No. 7 in Region 25 with a 3-2 overall record, while the Eric Huck-led Cadets are No. 10 in Region 21 with a 4-1 mark.
Only the Top-8 advance to postseason competition.
Photo courtesy of Katie Parks
Frontier High’s Derrick Heddleson (44) looks to elude opposing tacklers in a game earlier this season. The Cougars are scheduled to host Fort Frye Friday night.
So, needless to say, when FHS (1-1 PVC) hosts FFHS (1-1 PVC) in a key Pioneer Valley Conference football game at 7 p.m. Friday, a lot more will be at stake than just a regular league game.
"This is always a game to look forward to," Bradford said, "being that we're county and league rivals. There's bragging rights on the line."
Said Huck, "Frontier is a good football team with a couple of good running backs and a quarterback who can throw the ball. Right now, our focus is on Frontier."
A year ago in Beverly, Fort took care of business en route to the only school in Washington County to play in the postseason by beating Frontier 40-6.
Since the 2012 season, OHSAA has expanded from six to seven divisions, and small schools like Frontier, Caldwell, Waterford, and Beallsville are hoping to benefit from that decision and get an opportunity to extend its season.
Right now, all the Cougars have to do is keep winning - and ditto the Cadets.
Last Friday night, Frontier did just that on the road in a non-conference game at Beallsville (No. 6 in Region 25), defeating the host Blue Devils 14-6 on sophomore Nick Camino's dramatic pick-6 of 60 yards with 51 seconds left in the contest.
FHS never trailed in the game, but struggled on the offensive side of the ball with no positive yardage in passing.
Fortunately, the Cougars' ground attack was clicking with people like Jared Howell and Rodney Barnes carrying the ball.
Howell finished with 108 yards on 17 carries, which included one touchdown run of 30 yards in the opening period. He also ran for the 2-point conversion after Camino's game-winner.
Frontier of course knows that if it is to be successful against Fort Frye, it will have to have more balance in its attack, or be facing a nine-man front.
To keep the Cadets honest, Cougar QB Mitch Reynolds will definitely need to air it out more and get better protection from his line when he drops back to throw the ball.
"It's hard to play out there in Beallsville," Bradford said. "And, yes, they definitely pressured Mitch."
Frontier's line, which has been a big key to its success this season, will be featuring Jordan Martin at center; Seth Foutty at left guard and Mitch Minder at right; Austin Kimble at left tackle and Caleb McLeish at right; and Garrett Buegel and Jake Bradford at the tight ends.
"They're our anchors," Todd Bradford said of the line. "We'll go only as far as they take us."
Meanwhile, over at Woodsfield, which is not far from Beallsville, Fort Frye was suffering its first setback of the season, dropping a 48-20 decision to Monroe Central (3-2, 3-0).
The Cadets and Noles were knotted at 14-all at the end of one, but from the second quarter on, it was pretty much all the host team.
"I thought we moved the ball well, but our defense is going to have to play a lot better against Frontier than they did against Monroe Central," Huck said.
Senior signal caller Chandler Lang led Fort Frye with 86 yards rushing, including one TD run of 36 yards. He also passed for 113 yards and one scoring strike to Zach Prichard. Derek Layton had the Cadets other TD on a 3-yard run.
Defensively, Fort Frye definitely had its difficulties with Monroe Central's smash-mouth, ground attack, giving up 353 yards. The Cadets also allowed 100 passing yards.
While Fort Frye and Frontier each is situated at opposite ends of the county, its rivalry on the gridiron has always been pretty intense. Look for a hard hitting game.
Oh, yes, also look for a playoff atmosphere in New Matamoras this Friday night.
"It's always a good game," Huck said. "And for us playing over there, it's always tough."
Notes: Fort Frye's Chandler Lang and Frontier's Mitch Minder are first cousins, according to Cougar boss Todd Bradford. With Lang at QB and Minder as an outside linebacker on defense, the chances of further contact are very likely.