But to those involved, it will be quite easy on Saturday when Monroeville (2-7, 1-5) visits arch rival St. Paul (8-1, 5-1) in a Firelands Conference at 7 p.m. at Whitney Field.
While the Eagles have had a tough season, the Flyers — ranked No. 8 in the latest Associated Press state poll — know they will be playing in the Region 26 playoffs next week, most likely back at Whitney Field.
“They are better than their record, they really are,” St. Paul coach John Livengood said. “But I have said it in the past and will continue to say you can throw out the records when it comes to St. Paul against Monroeville. It's a rivalry game for two close communities, and I think if you get caught up in records in this type of game — you'd be making a mistake.
“Their kids are going to play hard, and they have played hard,” he added. “I watched them live against Western Reserve (40-20 loss on Oct. 11) and they played hard. They've gotten better.”
The Eagles were finally rewarded in Firelands Conference play last week. They trailed Mapleton, 14-13, early in the fourth quarter, when Isaac Roeder returned an interception for a touchdown for the go-ahead score in a 28-20 win. It snapped a six-game losing streak in a season decimated by injuries and low roster numbers.
“It’s been a tough year for the kids,” Monroeville coach Scott Stecher said. “Starting the season with 27 kids, there were times this year where we’ve had 14-to-19 kids dressed in practice. In the loss to Western, we only had 18 kids dressed — and no healthy running backs. The kids have persevered through a lot, so it was good for them last week.”
In the win, Anthony Dublo ran 16 times for 108 yards and two touchdowns, while Brayden Schuller added 83 yards and a TD on 15 attempts. Roeder was 5-of-10 passing for 47 yards, with Trevor Schafer catching three of those passes for 42 yards.
“It was a nice reward, because we had lost in the final minute at South Central and hung with some teams like Western Reserve for a half-plus,” Stecher said. “It’s just been one of those years, so for them to win their last home game was real nice to see.”
Stecher knows the challenge facing his team on Saturday, where the Eagles are looking to snap a 10-game losing streak to the Flyers, counting playoff games in 2015 and 2016.
“If we play our best game, we have a chance,” he said. “That’s why you play, and why there is football. John always has his kids prepared to play and are always a tough matchup. Have I ever thought in the last six years we couldn’t beat them ? No, but you have to play your very best because they don’t give you many opportunities to capitalize on anything. One play, just one snap can take you out of a game against them.
“Against St. Paul, you have to make your breaks and create your own opportunities,” he added. “If we play our best game, and if we don’t make mistakes, we’ll give them a battle.”
On the other side of things, Livengood is focused on the interior lines of the Eagles, where a wealth of experience awaits.
"They've got a lot of experience back up front, and I think Zeb Schafer is one of the best two-way players in the conference,” Livengood said. “He's really good, and plays physical and hard every single play. And their solid with their line on both sides with starting experience with (Daniel) Smith, (Grant) Opper and (Gunner) Howell as well. Those guys all are playing well. I think Roeder has made a lot of improvement since we saw him in Week 1 against Calvert to now.
“He's running the offense well and they utilize him running the ball as well as throwing quite a bit,” he added. “I know they've had a bit of a revolving door at running back with injuries, but Eli Ott, Ricky Ringer and Brayden Schuler and even Dublo was back there against Western — so they are playing a lot of kids in the backfield and they've looked solid. Defensively, it's the same thing. They have a strong front there.”
The Flyers are paced by the 1-2 punch in the backfield of Cam Caizzo (1,021 yards, 12 TDs) and Justin Butler (668 yards, 13 TDs). Myron Stoll is 40-of-64 passing for 559 yards with 8 TDs while adding 280 yards and 6 TDs rushing.
Steven Deleon has 14 catches (126 yards) and Lars Livengood adds 12 catches for 131 yards with 5 TDs.
Will Stieber leads the defense with 86 tackles (8 for loss), three sacks and four fumble recoveries. Butler has 62 tackles (two sacks), while Ben Meyer has 41 tackles and eight sacks. Lars Livengood has 33 tackles, five interceptions and four pass breakups.
The Flyers are coming off a 42-6 win at New London last week. While they know the season doesn’t end on Saturday, the playoff opponent remains very much up in air.
St. Paul is currently second in the region, but could finish anywhere among the top four yet.
“Our focus is always the same, we're going to continue to try and improve each week,” Livengood said. “Right now we're not focused on Week 11, just Monroeville and this Saturday. We're completely focused on Monroeville. We'll go out and scout some potential playoff teams (on Friday) after practice, but there are so many different scenarios that you can't even focus on two or three teams.
“There are a lot of different scenarios, so we're just trying to work on ourselves and continue to get better. We'll see where things stand after Saturday and prepare from there,” he added.