Of all the games this weekend with playoff implications, perhaps nowhere will the stakes be higher than in Silver Creek, tonight when the Chautauqua Lake Thunderbirds come to town to take on the Black Knights in a Class D slugfest.
Whichever team comes out on top will likely be a No. 3 seed and host a first-round playoff game. The loser will almost assuredly end up as a No. 5 seed and have to travel in round one.
Chautauqua Lake (4-2) came out of the gates quickly, but have lost two of three, including a 35-6 loss to Class D powerhouse Randolph last week. The Thunderbirds allowed 380 yards on the ground in that game and the task doesn't get easier with Silver Creek's Zeddie Williams.
"He poses all sorts of problems," Chautauqua Lake coach Dan Greco said of Williams. "He has speed and is very difficult to tackle. We have to do a better job."
"We always try to get the ball to Zed," Silver Creek coach Sean Helmer added. "He's the type of kid that can do things that make you just shake your head. We want to establish the run game, but we have plenty of guys we can get the ball to."
Despite a spotless road record, Greco still wishes this game was in Mayville rather than having to take the trip down Route 20 to Silver Creek.
"It just happens those losses were against Maple Grove and Randolph," Greco said of the team's two home losses. "We just weren't good enough on those nights. We would much rather be home than away."
Both teams have respect for the other and knows they're in for a grind.
"They're big up front," Helmer said of the Thunderbirds. "They're a physical ground-it-out type of team. They have quick backs to keep you guessing. Their kids play hard. It's a team moving in the right direction. They do a lot of things the right way."
"They started with a very tough opening schedule with Maple Grove and Randolph," Greco said of the Black Knights. "They started slow but have vastly improved the last couple weeks."
Of course, in a game of this magnitude, neither coach was quick to give away any game plans.
"With a physical team like Chautauqua Lake," Helmer stated, "we need to win down and distances. If we allow them to be in 3rd-and-short, we're playing right into their hands. We need to put them in uncomfortable down and distances."
"There's going to be a lot of 1-on-1 battles," Greco chimed in. "Our outside backers on their backs, our receivers on their secondary, there's not one in particular.
"After being humbled a bit a couple of times," Greco concluded. "We're just focusing on this game and trying to get better real quick."
"They're excited to get homecoming and the senior game out of the way," Helmer added. "We want to do what we call 'moving forward into the playoffs instead of limping in.' Let's be the team people don't want to play in the playoffs."