The stakes are high Friday night at Union City where two of Randolph County's football teams battle for the bragging rights of the traveling trophy known as the "Milk Can."
But in this game, there's much more at stake for the home-standing Indians and the visiting "Black Attack" of Winchester.
For one thing, a winning season is one the line.
For Union City, at 4-3 this season, a win guarantees a winning season, the first since 2012. With only 14 players in attendance for that first practice, and with only five with any varsity experience, some might have thought a winning season was out of reach. Yet here the Indians are, on the cusp of win No. 5 and with a real shot of winning at least a couple of games in tournament.
For Winchester, currently 4-4, a winning season seemed unlikely after a 1-3 start. But if not for a tough 35-34 loss at Tri three weeks ago, the Golden Falcons would be 5-3 right now and looking for a win that would guarantee a winning season. A win over the Indians and a first-round sectional win over Northeastern at home would push them to six wins entering the sectional semifinals.
A victory also will give a team tons of momentum going into the sectional next week. Both teams have winnable tourney openers, but a loss on Friday will surely be deflating.
Both coaches, Keith Maloy at Union City and Mike Jones of Winchester, aren't taking this game lightly.
"Anytime you have to go to Union City to play a football game, you know you're in for a fight," said Jones. It's a big game for the kids. They talk about it. They all know one another."
Maloy echoed that sentiment, noting that Union City's annual clash with Winchester is one of the biggest games of the year."
"Any coach that tells you that one game isn't bigger than another is just lying to themselves," Maloy said. "There is a lot at stake on Friday, and we don't try and hide that from our kids. This is a big deal."
Generally speaking, most football games have a team that is considered "the favorite" to win the game, even if it is slightly. This year's game is truly a toss-up.
Winchester's offense is clicking on all cylinders after a 70-0 win over Cambridge City last Friday. The Falcons put 40 on the board the week before that, and scored 34 and 32 respectively in the two weeks before that.
Union City is typically more of a ball control team that relies on time of possession, special teams and defense to win games. In last week's 52-7 loss to a high-powered Centerville team, the Indians trailed just 14-7 midway through the second quarter but simply didn't have the manpower to keep the Bulldogs at bay any longer.
Winchester has won 15 of the 21 games since 2000, but the two teams have gone back and forth the past four years with the Falcons winning last year's game 42-6. The Indians won two years ago, 26-24. The home team has won for the past five years.
The Falcons are led offensively by a pair of seniors, quarterback Braydon Tippett and running back Braxton Bosworth. Tippett, the quarterback, has passed for 747 yards and seven touchdowns with just two interceptions while also rushing for seven touchdowns. Bosworth has rushed for 725 yards on 94 carries with seven touchdowns. Five different receives have caught more than 100 passing yards.
The Indians are led by electric Blayne Daniels, who has scored 8 rushing touchdowns and two passing TDs. Brenden Wright is 35 for 79 behind center for 549 yards with 8 touchdowns, while sophomore Xavier Ware owns the most receiving yards with 242 and 3 touchdowns.