Neither Columbiana or Leetonia are entering Friday's rivalry game in the best of circumstances. That doesn't diminish the game's significance one bit as far as either is concerned.
"This is a game where it doesn't matter at all what the records are or how strong the teams are," Leetonia coach Matt Altomare said. "It is still a great game played with a lot of intensity."
Both the Bears and Clippers come in licking their wounds after a pair of lopsided opening defeats, with Leetonia falling to Lisbon 35-6 and Columbiana succumbing to Western Reserve 47-12.
"I think we've come out of last week OK," Columbiana coach Bob Spaite said. "It's easy to bounce back when you have a rivalry game like this in week two. Leetonia's guys always seem to play above their heads against us."
Both programs are going through their leanest stretch in recent memory.
After going 3-7 a season ago (their first losing record since 1996), the Clippers were hit with a nightmarish offseason in which they lost nine players to graduation and 14 additional players who either quit the team, moved away or transferred.
"You are always going to have a couple guys every year who move out of the district or who decide football isn't for them," Spaite said. "For whatever reason we just had a wave of that happen all in one offseason. We lost six guys who were in the mix for starting positions and a bunch of role players, it really ate into our depth. We only have nine offensive linemen on the whole roster."
The Bears, meanwhile lost their two main skill players-running back Zack Van Giesen and quarterback Trent Ferry-from a team that went 2-8 last season. Senior Drew Turney struggled in his quarterback debut last week against Lisbon, throwing three interceptions as the Bears mustered only 141 yards of total offense.
"Drew has done a good job of putting last week behind him," Altomare said. "For being thrown right into the quarterback position he is coming along pretty well. He is starting to do a better job of seeing the whole field."
In spite of the challenging times, both coaches are pleased with the overall spirit of their squads.
"The real nice surprise for me has been the team's attitude," Altomare said. "Coming into this season we knew it was going to be tough and we didn't know how the guys were going to respond but our guys have shown a lot of heart and soul each day."
"The players who are still here, really want to be here," Spaite said. "They really want to play hard and represent Columbiana."
West Branch at Crestview
Despite a stagnant offense and an abundance of first-game jitters, the young and revamped Rebels were still able to grind out a 14-7 win over Beaver Local last week for their 38th win in their last 40 regular season games.
"Thursday before the Beaver Local game was probably the worst practice we've had since camp started, we were very erratic," Crestview coach Paul Cusick said. "Some people might not realize just how young of a team we really have. I think they were feeling game-day nerves a day early."
It has been smoother sailing for the Rebels this week as the offense's nine new starters attempt to become more comfortable with the system.
"This week has gone a lot better for us," Cusick said. "Everyone has settled in a little bit as they get more repetitions. It was very important confidence-wise for this group to get a win any way they could last week."
Crestview may be forced to lean on its defense for the second staright week while the offense continues to be brought along. When the Rebels are on that side of the ball, their number-one target will be West Branch receiver Kip DeShields, who hauled in seven passes for 114 yards and one touchdown last week.
"We have more depth than we've had in a long time at defensive back," Cusick said. "We have six guys who are capable of stepping up back there. We are going to continue to need them to play at a high level."
Streetsboro at Southern
The Indians' defense better be ready to run Friday night against Streetsboro as the Rockets feature one of the state's fastest players in wide receiver Dakari Carter. Carter, a 5-foot-8 sophomore, won the Div. II 100-meter dash at the state track meet, beating a star-studded field. His winning time of 10.83 seconds bested Younstown State football recruit Jaylon Brown of St. Clairsville and acclaimed Ohio State football recruit Parris Campbell of Akron St. Vincent St. Mary. Carter had four receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown in the Rockets 40-7 season opening win over Champion. Southern was burned by Waterloo 49-20 last week.
Lisbon at Mineral Ridge
The Blue Devils-who dominated Leetonia 35-6 last week-hit the road for the second straight game as they look for their first 2-0 start since 2006. Mineral Ridge is the second of three Div. VII teams the Blue Devils play in their non-conference schedule. The Rams were beaten 28-7 by Salem last week.
Malvern at Western Reserve
Two state playof teams from last season collide in a Div. VII Region 23 matchup. Western Reserve defeated the Hornets 20-12 last year on their way to a Div. VII state semifinal apperance. Malvern-which finished last season 8-3-lost to United 26-13 last week.