Both the Pine Valley Panthers and Cassadaga Valley Cougars are coming off tough Week 1 Class D high school football losses.
The Cougars fell to Ellicottville 26-11 while the Panthers were shutout, 35-0, at home by early-season favorites Frewsburg.
Now the two teams square off tonight at 7:30 p.m. in South Dayton trying to avoid an 0-2 start.
Pine Valley’s Dan?Weaver will have plenty more protection tonight in a Class D high school football game as two offensive linemen return from injuries.
"It's major," Cassadaga Valley coach Nick Spitzer said. "We play Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake next week. We have to go into that game with some momentum."
"For both teams, it's going to be very, very important," Pine Valley coach Ehrich Zollinger said. "No one wants to start 0-2. Our tough road schedule begins for us after this game. This is our second of three home games this season. The seniors are definitely going to want to win."Pine Valley's offense struggled in the run game last week against Frewsburg, but offensive linemen Jake Wilcox and Dan McDonald return from injuries to help shore up the front line.
"We made a couple changes and we have taken a good look at the Cassadaga Valley defense to create blocking schemes that will give us an advantage," Zollinger noted. "Scheme wise, they are a lot like us. Defensively, the big challenge is how we block that 3-3-5 defensive look. They like to blitz out of that."
Despite Cassadaga Valley's Week 1 loss, Spitzer noted there were several positives he saw out of his young team as the two teams were almost identical as far as total yards.
"Ellicottville returned nine guys from last year," he continued. "We expected a physical game and got it. We have several underclassmen, but we held up pretty good. I think our guys are pretty athletic and talented. My main concern was how the younger guys would handle varsity speed and physicalness. They did well. If they can be physical, they will be OK."
With a young roster, mistakes are bound to happen and those mistakes cost the Cougars the battle of field position, which proved to be the difference.
"Unfortunately how we got in those positions were unavoidable," Spitzer said. "We opened up by fumbling. We ran some leads and didn't get a first down and then the snap went over the punter's head. Ellicottville took over on the 8 and two plays later they are in the end zone. We pretty much gave them six points. We have to avoid those mistakes. I expected a few to go wrong, I just didn't expect it to go like it did."
As for today's game, Spitzer is hoping his team can take some of the positives from last week and use them against Pine Valley.
"I actually liked our intensity and how physical we were and how we got off the ball," he said. "We hit our gaps and holes pretty quickly. From what I can gather, Pine Valley looks pretty young. Frewsburg pretty much did what they wanted. We are getting better at it day by day. Hopefully they execute it."
And as Zollinger has noted on many occasions, he is looking at how his team progresses throughout the season.
"It's not how you start, but how you finish," he said. "I am looking for improvement across the board. If we improve on the offensive line play, it gives us a very good chance for all facets."