That isn’t a reference to it being the final regular season home game for the seven seniors on the St. Paul football team Friday night in Norwalk.
Instead, it’s what most opposing teams feel about Mapleton senior quarterback Logan Pharmer (5-foot-9, 160) — who will lead the Mounties (5-1, 3-0) into Whitney Field for a matchup of state-ranked teams against the Flyers (5-1, 3-0).
A four-year starter, Pharmer will likely be a three-time All-Ohioan next month as well. He enters the game having completed 99-of-160 passes for 1,584 yards with 17 touchdowns and six interceptions. Pharmer also leads the Mounties in rushing with 400 yards and 4 TDs on 62 attempts.
“I’m pretty sure he’s also going to be a four-time all-league player and is one of the best quarterbacks we’ve seen in the Firelands Conference in a long, long time,” St. Paul coach John Livengood said of Pharmer. “It’s not just his throwing skills and his ability there — but it’s also his feet. He has great pocket presence and the ability to run with the ball.
“You can’t just focus on defending the pass with him and (Garrett) Hartley in the backfield,” he added. “They’re as dangerous running the ball as they are throwing it.”
Friday’s game is not only a big one to determine sole possession of first place in the Firelands Conference for the Mounties and Flyers — both tied at No. 10 in this week’s Division VII Associated Press state poll.
St. Paul is ninth in the Region 26 computer rankings, while the Mounties sit atop Region 25. It’s a chance for Mapleton to most likely lock up a first-round home game for the second time — and advance to the state playoffs for just the fourth time in program history (1991, 2013, 2014).
Meanwhile, a win for the Flyers will give them a significant bump into the top eight entering the final three weeks. St. Paul has won six straight FC titles and made six straight playoff appearances.
“That’s what you want to be doing — going into the last month playing meaningful games with a lot on the line,” Livengood said. “There is certainly plenty on the line for both teams.”
Mapleton is mainly a spread offense, with Pharmer’s top two targets being Gage Scurlock (5-9, 145) and Ethan Hartley (5-9, 180). Scurlock has caught 37 passes for 486 yards and 3 TDs, and Hartley has 29 catches for 589 yards and 9 TDs. At running back, Garrett Hartley has 62 attempts for 362 yards and two scores.
Last week, the Mounties — who average 32.5 points per game — outscored previously unbeaten South Central (5-1, 2-1) by a 21-0 margin in the second half of a 28-12 win. Pharmer was 13-of-24 passing for 332 yards with 3 TDs and an interception. Garrett Hartley ran 16 times for 54 yards, but caught six passes for 176 yards and 2 TDs. Scurlock had four catches for 92 yards.
“The majority of their offense is to spread you out and create space for their athletes and let Pharmer distribute the ball,” Livengood said. “He makes reads and quick decisions and gets the ball to where he wants it accurately. He’s talented in that regard, but also very intelligent in what he’s doing. He has their offense mastered and knows where he wants to go with the football.”
Defensively, middle linebacker Adam Shadd (5-10, 185) has 61.5 tackles (8 for loss) in six games — which included 13 tackles at South Central last week. Defensive tackle Travis DuBois (6-2, 200) has 35.5 tackles (12 for loss) and five sacks.
“They are mainly a 3-5-3 defense, but are really strong up the middle,” Livengood said. “Nose guard Dylan Kern (5-11, 200) and Shadd are two of the best players in the conference. Shadd stands out with his ability to finish tackles and Kern with his quickness. They move their line around a lot, and everything is sound, but also disruptive.”
The St. Paul defense will counter with a group allowing 186 yards and 7.5 points per game. A total of 33 of the 45 points allowed were in a Sept. 7 loss to No. 7-ranked Tiffin Calvert (5-1). Linebackers Sam Meyer (77 tackles, 7 for loss) and Noah Good (59 tackles, 7 for loss, 2 INTs) pace the defense, while Gavin Moffit has 41 tackles (6 for loss) and four sacks.
Facing passing offenses that have averaged 14 attempts per game against them, the Flyers have allowed 305 yards and no TDs with seven interceptions through the air.
Offensively, St. Paul is averaging 37.3 points and 397.8 yards per game. That includes 239 yards per game on the ground, paced by Cam Caizzo (91 att., 699 yards, 11 TDs) and Good (77 att., 503 yards, 7 TDs). Quarterback Jake Griffin was 55-of-81 passing for 949 yards with 8 TDs and 2 INTs.
Eric Crabbs has caught 18 passes for 285 yards and 4 TDs, with Gavin Starcher adding 16 catches for 290 yards and a TD. The Flyers have outscored their six opponents, 82-0, in the first quarter this season.
Mapleton is looking for its first win against St. Paul since 1995 — but there has been several good games over the past five years under head coach Robert Mahaney. The Flyers rallied from a 21-7 deficit to win 34-28 in 2014 — then also beat the Mounties in the second round of the playoffs at Bellevue. Last season, St. Paul won six FC games by an average of 44 points — but trailed 20-17 at Mapleton in an eventual 31-20 win.
“Mapleton has been a strong program since Coach Mahaney has been down there, and he does an excellent job,” Livengood said. “They took us to the brink last year. They are a very well-coached, good team. We know we’ll have to play our best game of the year this week.”