One of them wants to win desperately. The other one needs to win.
Amid the backdrop of an already storied rivalry, Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic's Laurel Highlands Conference high school football game on Friday night at Point Stadium against Bishop McCort will take on added significance because of the playoff ramifications the outcome will have for both teams.
Guilfoyle doen't have to worry about the postseason: The Marauders already have clinched a spot in the District 6 Class A field, although they have an incentive because a win would virtually ensure they were one of the top two seeds in the tournament in addition to extending their six-game winning streak.
There's a lot more at stake for McCort. Perennial district title contenders who look like they could be a threat again despite a 5-3 record, the Crimson Crushers rank eighth in the 6-A point standings with two weeks left in the regular season. That puts them smack dab in the middle of a group of six teams separated by 160 points, an amount that could be covered with just one win under the proper circumstances.
Guilfoyle is 7-1 and is riding a tidal wave of momentum, but Marauder coach Justin Wheeler is wary of the obstacle McCort presents.
"They're right on that bubble right now, so we know they are going to be attacking this game as a playoff game," Wheeler said. "When a team is kind of backed against the wall a little bit and on that verge, they become pretty dangerous. You have to expect everything.
"It definitely puts a little more excitement into things. We're fighting for a home playoff game," Wheeler added. "I think it's going to be a heck of a football game."
Based on the way Guilfoyle has been performing of late, that's saying something. Since losing to undefeated Richland in week 2, the Marauders have been winning and gathering steam simultaneously.
BG's last three wins have been by 28, 33 and 27. Two of those have been shutout wins, and they also account for three of Guilfoyle's four highest scoring games of the season.
Behind the Marauders' big front line, Cody Rossman and Pat Irwin each reached the 100-yard mark and Sam McCloskey almost joined them last week as BG rushed for a season-high 327 yards against Westmont Hilltop.
That, however, might be a double-edged sword, if the Marauders aren't on their guard.
"As coaches, our goal is to make the kids better each and every week, and the kids have bought into that. But, definitely, if you look at our stats from the last few weeks, you wonder how much better can we get," Wheeler said. "We tell the kids McCort's a different challenge. You've got to be ready for some adversity. We haven't faced much of that recently."
McCort is very aware of it. This is a team that graduated a lot from the Crusher team of 2011 that came an eyelash from upending higher-seeded Bellwood in the 6-A quarterfinals.
McCort is trying to rebound from a 21-19 loss at Cambria Heights last week. It was the Crushers' fourth game this year decided by seven points or fewer - they're 1-3 in those contests.
"In the Laurel Highlands this year, there are a lot of teams similar in terms of ability, so we knew we'd play a lot of close games. We feel that's likely to be the case again on Friday night," McCort coach Kevin Sheridan said. "It's a matter of putting the coaching onto the field and making that play at those critical moments. We've shown the ability to do that at some times, but not in others."
McCort could be a force with which to be reckoned if it makes the playoffs: The Crushers gave Richland its stiffest test of the year before losing by seven. Making the playoffs, though, has to come first.
"We've played a series of big games in a row. We just realize the opportunities are fewer and fewer as we get closer to the end of the season. Things are more critical now," Sheridan said. "We have to be able to stop their run. Our front seven and front eight have been strong this season. On the flip side, we have to establish the run, where we haven't been as consistent as we'd like to be."
With 340-pound Lake Dorn and 290-pound Christian Roman in the middle, McCort is one of the few teams that can match Guilfoyle in size up front. Although the teams were in different leagues for quite a while, truncating the series, this is their 60th meeting, and the next few figure to be big games as well - both schools' eighth grade teams are undefeated.
"Last week I was worried because our kids were focused on McCort. I know the kids are excited," Wheeler said.