A lot will be riding on Friday's Shenendehowa-Saratoga football game.
Besides bragging rights, Shen (4-0) will be looking to maintain its hold on first place in the Empire Division, while Saratoga (2-2) will be looking to avoid falling out of sole possession of fourth place and the final playoff spot.
Our kids have to line up and play, said Saratoga coach Terry Jones. "We did that against CBA, and we did that against Queensbury (for our two wins)."
The teams are entering the game off polar opposite performances last Thursday. Shen throttled Queensbury 54-6, while Bethlehem ended Saratoga's two-game winning streak with a 16-13 victory.
"We took a stumble last week, and we need to get back on track," said Jones.
Until the Queensbury game when Shen scored 47 points in the first half, the Plainsmen had developed a reputation as a fourth quarter team after outscoring Albany and Ballston Spa 21-0 in that quarter to pull out close wins.
"We've overcome some tough situations and adversity, and the kids have shown a lot of progress," said Shen coach Brent Steuerwald.
The Plainsmen have been getting the job done on the ground. The duo of Jason Bedard and Darrell Evans have combined to rush for 833 yards in the first four weeks, which has taken significant pressure off quarterback Charles Miller and the Shen passing attack.
"They have a tremendous amount of depth at running back," said Jones. "Between Evans, Bedard and (Suhayb) Banks, they have three tremendous backs."
Saratoga has also had success on the ground with Tony DeLoatch, Leejay Pollacchi and quarterback Jimmy Minogue leading the way. However, the Blue Streaks may have to do without Minogue Friday after the senior was injured in the second half of the Bethlehem game.
"Jimmy has that breakaway threat " he can score from anywhere on the field," said Jones. "We'd miss that a little bit (if he can't play), but we're confident in our backup, Colin Mulholland. He led our JV team to the championship last year."