Last season, Dunkirk faced a similar situation. At 2-1, the Marauders were looking for a big win to put themselves in control of their playoff destiny. They lost that game and every other game after it, finishing the season 2-6 and missing the playoffs.
"I think it's huge," Dunkirk head coach Rob Genco said of the importance of winning tonight. "I've already told our coaches and told our players that this is it. This is the biggest game.
"I don't think by any means that if we lose that the season's over," Genco continued. "But you're sitting at 3-1 in the division, with a good chance of making the playoffs. If you drop to 2-2, you're clawing and scraping to try and get in with point differential. And it may not happen, so to me, this is huge."
The Fredonia Hillbillies will host the Gowanda Panthers tonight at the Orange Bowl at 7:30 p.m. in a Class C high school football game.?While that game is going on, the Dunkirk Marauders will be hosting the Eden?Raiders in a Class B?high school football showdown which could have major playoff implications.
In order to get to 3-1, the Marauders will have to beat an undefeated Eden (3-0, 2-0) team that has outscored its opponents, 95-39.
"We are going to have to stop Eden's double-tight, double-wing (offense)," Genco said. "It's a frustrating offense to go against. You've got to cover all 10 gaps and their offense is designed to overload the point of attack."
What also makes the Raiders' offense tough to defeat is the matchups their offensive sets create.
"They have even numbers on both sides, so you can't cheat and you can't guess," Genco added. "All you can do is just react. And if you don't react well, they end up with more guys on one side of the ball than you and it's a long day."
The Marauders do have some familiarity with the type of offense the Raiders will employ, as East Aurora (0-3) used similar concepts.
"It's a little bit more compact and it's a little harder to find the ball," Genco said. "You'll see the fullback is hidden right behind the quarterback and they'll use deceptions a little bit. You just have to react the right way, and put your guys in the right spots based on (Eden's) motions."
The Marauders held the Blue Devils to 16 points last week, and their defense will need to hold the Raiders to well under the 31.6 points they've averaged per game this season.
"You can't just go in and lineup in your base (defensive) front against them," Genco said. "You have to prepare with a completely different defensive front as your base, so you have to prepare. You're playing something that you haven't repped a million times or when you rep against different formations. It's something that we only see once a year, so it's kind of like you have to have that adjustment in your back pocket. And you've got to get enough reps and hopefully get your boys tied onto it."
Not only would a win mean something in terms of the Marauders' playoff outlook, it would also mean something personally to Genco, who is an Eden alum.
"I'll have family here and a lot of the last names will be people in town that I grew up with, or they grew up with my uncles," Genco said. "So, I probably want this one more than I wanted the last one. Definitely more, but to be honest with you, it'd be great to have a win, but it's not about me. Me beating Eden doesn't do anything for our kids here at Dunkirk. Beating them means that we have a good chance at getting into the playoffs. It means more for that reason than it does personal reasons."