Edgerton and Hicksville have been on a collision course from the opening week of Green Meadows Conference football play back in week 4 and at 7 p.m. on Friday night at Aces' Field, the two league unbeatens will go toe-to-toe.
At stake when these two well-oiled machines do battle?
A guaranteed share of the GMC crown with one big game left in week 10 and major, much needed computer points in Division V, Region 18 for the currently 8th-seeded Aces (6-2, 5-0 GMC) as well as for the Division VI, 4th-seeded Bulldogs (7-1, 5-0), who "control their own destiny" for a playoff spot.
"It has been hard the last couple weeks not to look ahead to Edgerton, but we have focused on the task at hand and taken care of business," stated Hicksville mentor Lucas Smith. "Finally it's Edgerton week and I feel our players will be extremely excited for this game. We realize that the GMC and playoffs are on the line, which is exactly what you want this time of the year. This game between us and Edgerton is what high school sports are all about."
Edgerton heads to Hicksville riding a five-game win streak, outscoring its opponents by an average of 26 points per contest, very close to the Aces almost 28-point margin of victory. They are also in the middle of a tough three-game stretch that started with a Fairview win last week and will end in week 10 against Tinora.
"The way we are approaching these last two weeks, and the way we have approached every week so far, is to essentially treat them as one-game seasons," stated Edgerton first-year head coach Ben Wilhelm. "We won't allow ourselves to be distracted by things that are out of our control - other teams' records, playoff rankings, etc. - we have a tough game against Hicksville to prepare for, and that is where our focus will be."
Seniors such as quarterback Brody Flegal, leading rusher and scorer Jimmy Radabaugh and wideout Nathan Stark have been integral parts in a balanced and explosive offense that is certain to keep Hicksville on its toes all over the field.
Flegal has thrown for 1,700 yards on 87-of-133 passing with 22 touchdowns and only five interceptions, while Radabaugh has amassed 887 rushing yards on 103 attempts, with 20 of those attempts culminating in six points. Flegal has also gained 203 rushing yards.
Stark has been the beneficiary of many of Flegal's passes, leading the team with 42 receptions for 786 yards, an average of 18.7 yards per catch. Hunter Flower (16 catches, 26.1 ypc, 5 TDs) and Radabaugh (14 catches, 28 ypc, 5 TDs) have also proven to be lethal receivers.
"This will be a big test for us, they are a multi-dimensional offense and do a great job mixing the run with the pass," Smith said. "We just have to be disciplined and not let all of their formations and motions confuse us. They are well coached and have some great athletes."
Seth Klepper (67 tackles, 2 INTs), Joe Contreras (52 tackles, 3 sacks), Zac Stoll (six sacks), Austin Michael (six sacks) and the rest of the stingy Hicksville defense (10 points allowed in its last five games) will be charged with the task of slowing down an offense which has totaled 1,873 rushing yards and 1,803 yards through the air.
"We can't afford to give up big plays. We have to play fast and physical and make them earn every yard they get," said Smith. "Offensively we have to handle the highs and lows and not commit turnovers. We also have to realize that we are in for at least four quarters of football and we have to be mentally, physically, and emotionally ready."
Hicksville's Justin Miller leads an Aces' offense that is more run-heavy than the Bulldogs as the senior quarterback has thrown for 960 yards on 56-of-93 passing with 14 TDs while also running for 546 yards and eight scores on 89 carries.
Klepper leads the team with 623 yards and 13 scores on the ground and Kaleb Johns is third with 462 yards on 47 carries and five scores.
Junior Dean Conley, who has emerged as a threat in the kick and punt return game, leading the team with 23 receptions for 460 yards and six scores, while Christian Sexton (11 catches, 20.5 ypc, 3 TDs) and Charlie Emenhiser (six catches, 20.7 ypc) are more than capable when the ball is tossed their way.
"Hicksville has talent and a good scheme on both sides of the ball, it really is going to come down to who makes the least amount of mistakes," said Wilhelm. "Offensively, ball control is going to be a priority. Defensively, maintaining our responsibilities and defending the run game will be key."
Senior Austin Herman leads the Bulldogs with 57 tackles and Jacob Adams (50 tackles) leads the team with five sacks. Stark has six picks while Flegal and Flower each have four. Of note, in five games against common opponents - Edon, Ayersville, Holgate, Antwerp and Wayne Trace - Hicksville has outscored those teams 263-25 while Edgerton has a 264-91 scoring advantage.
Of course, when these two teams hit the field, the only numbers that will matter are the two scores on the scoreboard after at least 48 minutes of hard-hitting football.
"If both teams play well then it will be a very close game," concluded Smith. "If one team makes too many mistakes and does not play well then that team will be in for a long night."