The buildup surrounding a mega-midseason collision between undefeated Genoa and Eastwood perfectly illustrates the passion of football Friday nights in small towns.
A capacity crowd of nearly 5,000 will pack Comet Stadium tonight to see the fourth installment of a burgeoning rivalry. Genoa holds a 2-1 edge over the past two seasons. The Comets have captured two straight Suburban Lakes League titles with regular-season wins over the Eagles, who had won five straight before that.
Eastwood beat Genoa in a Division IV playoff game in 2007.
Last year, Genoa cruised to a 24-0 victory.
This season the Comets (5-0 overall, 1-0 SLL) have whipped their foes 276-13, while the Eagles (5-0, 2-0) have outscored their opponents 266-75.
Eastwood coach Jerry Rutherford said the hype started even before the season.
"Everyone's just been waiting for it and neither of us has stumbled," Rutherford said. "Our guys know they've lost to Genoa the last two years and our tradition of winning five in a row. I'm sure Genoa wants their third. Both teams will be ready."
Genoa has rushed for 1,641 yards compared to 1,767 for Eastwood.
"There is no secret. Both teams like to run the football," Rutherford said. "It will come down to who can run it and who can stop it. Last year we couldn't move the ball."
Genoa coach Mike Vicars said there are big playoff computer points at stake as well.
"They are undefeated and we are undefeated. It's not just an SLL game. A lot of people look at it as a Region 14 game as well," Vicars said.
Senior Cody Seifert leads the Eagles in scoring (15 touchdowns), rushing (728 yards) and receiving (166). Seifert is averaging 11.0 yards per carry. Junior Pernell Conner is second on the team with 381 yards and six TDs. Senior QB Clayton Ruch has thrown for 182 yards and two touchdowns. Senior end Clay Rolf, who will play for Bowling Green State University next season, has scored seven touchdowns.
Genoa senior back Connor Wendt has rushed for 394 yards with seven rushing touchdowns. He leads the league with 16 TDs. Wendt has eight catches for 294 yards.
Senior Greg Hillabrand leads the team with 593 rushing yards and has scored 54 points. Senior QB Matt Bassitt has completed 34 of 55 passes for 689 yards and 10 touchdowns.
"Our guys have worked for the opportunity to have a good season," Vicars said. "They are reaping the dividends of that right now. The seniors have turned into good leaders."
"This is a reward for all the hard work the guys put in," Rutherford said. "You get to play for a league championship. It will be exciting."