Most expect the Flyers (6-1, 4-0) to play in a Week 8 game that is for first place in the Firelands Conference along with critical playoff positioning every year.
But South Central? It’s a new experience for the Trojans (6-1, 3-1) — a program that has one FC title that was 55 years ago and has never reached the state playoffs.
“I think it most knew when we got to this point, St. Paul would probably be 7-0 or 6-1,” South Central coach Corey Fickiesen said. “And that’s a testament to John (Livengood) and program he built there. Every year, they always just reload. But for us, a lot of people are probably surprised.
“But over the summer and into the fall camp, we had talked about how to put ourselves in position to compete for the conference and playoffs,” he added. “We have really good players and assistant coaches who have put ourselves in this position late in the year ... they worked hard and played hard enough to be here.”
Here is a game that the Trojans need to win to force a tie atop the FC standings — and snap a 27-game losing streak to the Flyers. In Division VII Region 26, the Trojans (9.9143 points) are also just ahead of St. Paul (8.7929) in sixth and seventh, respectively.
“I think it’s great to be in this position where we are playing a championship-type game for the second straight week,” Livengood said. “We tell our kids every week is a championship week, but this is a big challenge. South Central is a very good team. They are doing things well, and our kids are going to have to play great.”
The Trojans are led by junior quarterback Evan Legg (5-foot-11, 155), who has completed 89-of-165 passes for 1,316 yards with 19 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. He’s also ran 72 times for 324 yards and 5 TDs.
David Lamoreaux has caught 35 passes for 639 yards and 12 TDs for South Central, while Cristiano Murphy has 30 catches for 466 yards and 5 TDs while adding nine rushes for 114 yards (12.6 average) and a TD.
Tycen Cooper adds 84 attempts for 430 yards and 5 TDs.
“I think the first thing you notice is Legg does a great job of running their offense,” Livengood said. “He does a great job throwing the ball, and he has some weapons throwing the ball, too, with Lamoreaux and Murphy. Both are explosive-type players, and Lamoreaux does a great job of catching the deep ball and hitches, while Murphy is just a game breaker.
“And they have a good, bruising running back in Cooper,” he added. “He runs physical and their line is blocking real well right now. They are mainly a spread set, but will run a lot of two-back sets and try to work a defense around with their formations ... but they run as well as they throw, so they are pretty balanced.”
Defensively, Wyatt Caudill (5-11, 170) led the Trojans with 74 tackles (4 for loss) entering last week’s win at Western Reserve. Tyler Sherer and Lathen Sholes each had three sacks through six games.
“Cooper and Caudill stand out at linebacker, he really runs to the ball well,” Livengood said. “Sholes jumps out on the film as a playmaker and disrupter on defense. Their secondary has those same athletes in Legg, Murphy, Jay Cook and Lamoreaux that all do a good job.”
Meanwhile, Fickiesen says there will be no surprises when the Flyers line up across from his team.
“It’s the same thing year after year, they’re not afraid to let you know where the ball is going — and they will do it very well,” he said of St. Paul. “Technique and execution goes a long way. Everything John does is a well-oiled machine, always running the same way, and it’s hard to stop it. There’s a lot of things they do really well, but you can’t say they have a lot of big kids or this or that ... they just play hard and are really good fundamentally.
“He gets kids to buy into that and gets the best out of every player,” Fickiesen added. “They are a top 10 team in our division every single year and it’s with good reason. They know how to get it done and continue to do it, which is pretty impressive.”
St. Paul enters the game averaging 39 points and 394 yards per game. Cam Caizzo has ran 112 times for 908 yards (8.1 average) and 14 TDs, while Noah Good adds 583 yards and 10 TDs on 94 rushes (6.2 average).
Jake Griffin is 59-of-87 passing for 987 yards and 9 TDs with two interceptions. Eric Crabbs has 20 catches for 312 yards and 5 TDs, with Gavin Starcher adding 16 catches for 290 yards and a TD — while also rushing for 86 yards and a TD on seven rushes.
The Flyers are allowing 10.3 points and 205.3 yards per game defensively. Sam Meyer has 86 tackles (8 for loss), with Good adding 69 tackles (8 for loss) and 2 INTs.
Crabbs has 63 tackles with five pass breakups and an INT. Gavin Moffit adds 52 tackles and four sacks.
And while the Flyers play in big games seemingly every year, Fickiesen said the games with Willard (32-26 OT win) and Mapleton (28-12 loss) have helped his team in preparation for Friday.
“Coming into this year, our kids haven’t played in a ton of big football games,” he said. “But they made decision to be ready to change that culture. Willard was bigger team (Div. V) and has athletes, but we pulled it out and got confidence. It kind of set up to where every week becomes a big game once you get to 3-0 or so.
“Mapleton was the one game where I didn’t feel like our effort and focus was engaged as much as we needed to be,” Fickiesen added. “It wasn’t our best. Those things led to getting beat by a very good team. But it should be exciting for our kids, and we’re excited for our community to be a part of it.”