Columbiana coach Bob Spaite thinks Friday's Columbiana at East Palestine football game is going to be one to remember.
"If you're a high school football fan and like contrasting styles, this is the game to be at," Spaite said. "You're going to see NASCAR vs. a tractor pull."
Both teams come in unbeaten which is a rarity in this series. The winner could come out with the inside track in the hunt for the Inter-Tri County League upper tier crown - especially since the schedule has so many top matchups early on.
"By week three of the league season everyone should know where they stand," Spaite said.
East Palestine coach Jeff Sharkey doesn't see it being that clear though.
"I think this year is going to be a lot like last year," Sharkey said. "The difference between one and eight in the league is not all that great. Even though the winner of this game will be in a great position, it doesn't mean that those teams who finish four, five and six won't be able to win here or there."
Right now, though, everyone in the league is even, but there are clear opinions about where this is headed.
For instance, Spaite said he had traded film with Sharkey early on Saturday and then went down to Steubenville to watch the Bulldogs take Steubenville Central.
"We watched the film of the Southern and Mogadore Field games and we felt pretty good afterwards," Spaite said.
Then things got a little horrorific for Spaite and the Clippers as they watched the Bulldogs dismantle the Crusaders - a team Spaite's Clippers struggled to beat in overtime.
"That was arguably the worst 12 hours I've spent after a win," Spaite said. "We went from thinking we'd be all right to stone silence when we walked out of there in the third quarter. Nobody in our car said a word until we got 10 miles down the road and then there was a collective 'What in the ...?'"
From Sharkey's perspective he's worried about Columbiana's strength and size.
"We're bigger than most people we play, but that's not the case with Columbiana," Sharkey said. "They give us some matchup problems."
Not so said Spaite.
"He's crazy," Spaite said. "Get the program. Everyone knows I inflate the weights a little bit. That's a running gag, let me tell you. Their line is very big."
Sharkey thinks ultimately the game will come down to the little things since a lot of factors balance each other out.
"I think the game is going to come down to turnovers and special teams," Sharkey said.
Crestview at United
It's no secret that the ITCL upper tier will likely take shape early and United coach Ed Ridgeway is not afraid to say it.
"I was talking to Columbiana coach Larry Baughman in the summer and he said we'll know by the sixth week how this thing is going to shake out," Ridgeway said.
United (1-2) opens the league slate on Friday with the state-ranked Rebels and then has back-to-back road games with state-ranked East Palestine and Columbiana.
The Eagles have found some confidence with the 7-0 win over an underrated Rootstown team. It remains to be seen if it will be enough for United to feed off of against Crestview.
"The kids are playing with a lot more pride and their spirits are up," Ridgeway said.
Crestview (3-0) is taking a more conservative approach in assessing the league schedule.
"There are a lot of key early matchups, but with this league it's going to be a tough go every week," Crestview coach Paul Cusick said. "This season will be a grind. There are a lot of good young players out there."
Crestview is coming off a narrow win over Division IV Tuscarawas Valley on Friday and Cusick is glad things turned out positive.
"We played with a lot of guts last week since we were battling a little bit of a flu bug," Cusick said.
While Cusick said the Rebels will be concerned with United's athletic ability at the skill positions, United is focused on playing its best possible game.
"They're playing with a lot of confidence right now," Ridgeway said. "Carter Hill is really playing well and they have two of the area's top linemen in Aaron Bussard and Gary Cervone."
Lisbon at Springfield: It's really hard to tell how good Springfield is at this point as the Tigers have a victories against winless Lowellville and 1-2 Youngstown Christian. Lisbon, on the other hand, has struggled to get anything going.
Jackson-Milton at Leetonia: Jackson-Milton (1-2) hasn't shown much since the opener. Meanwhile, the Bears (2-1) look to get on course for a run at the ITCL lower tier title.
Carrollton at West Branch: In the battle of the Warriors, Carrollton is 3-0, while West Branch has dropped two straight. West Branch will need a victory here if it hopes to mount some kind of challenge in the Northeastern Buckeye Conference.
South Range at Mineral Ridge: The Raiders (1-2) must be scratching their heads after a 54-7 loss to Marlington last week. It won't get any easier as both of the Rams' losses - McDonald and Mogadore - are strong playoff contenders.