Sometimes there are football games that are riding on which team has the advantage in several areas, or who can control any one of a number of aspects.
Tonight's District 6 Class A quarterfinal game between Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic and Juniata Valley isn't one of them.
Even the respective coaches have a difficult time trying to convince anyone that this game won't come down to Valley's ability to run the ball behind its big, experienced line vs. BG's tough run defense, keyed by its big, athletic front four.
"Their defense is very good. You look at them on tape, and they're very solid, very aggressive, especially their front four and their linebackers. They're extremely impressive," Green Hornets coach Mike Smith said. "With our offensive line, I was telling the coaching staff that I was extremely impressed with their ability to get two running backs [Brett Grissinger and Jesse Claar] over 1,000 yards. That's quite an accomplishment. They just have to continue to play well. I think our offensive line has to play well for us to have a chance because we are so heavy on the run."
The clash between the fourth-seeded Hornets (9-1) and the fifth-ranked Marauders (8-2) - one of the more interesting games on the first weekend of the postseason - is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. at A. R. Simkins Field in Alexandria.
"That's the exciting part about this game. We've had five shutouts this year. Our defensive front has played pretty well for us. And this is going to be a unique challenge," Guilfoyle coach Justin Wheeler said. "You get out of the Laurel Highlands [Conference], and you face a team that you aren't too familiar with, and you face a team that has had so much success running the ball. They have two kids that have run for 1,000 yards. We've been telling our kids all week that the battle is going to be between their run game and our kids stopping it."
Easier said than done. The fewest yards the Hornets have accumulated on the ground in a game this season is 212. They've surpassed 300 yards five times, including last week when they rushed for 347 against Class AA Huntingdon, which has a couple of big, proven defensive linemen.
A Valley back has rushed for 100 yards in a game 13 times this year. Grissinger is among the area leaders with 1,282 yards in the Hornets' jet-series Wing-T scheme, running for 15 touchdowns. Claar, a first-year starter at fullback has 1,163 and 20 scores.
Grissinger also is a receiving threat from the halfback slot, scoring eight more times on 24 receptions.
"We thought we could have a decent year, because we had Brett coming back. But we lost our fullback, Ethan Morrison, and Dalton Weicenburg and Mason Varner. Jesse really didn't play much at fullback at all last year," Smith said.
Claar's emergence has been a huge factor in Valley exceeding its coach's expectations, but it didn't hurt either that the Hornets had four starters back on their offensive line - tackles Alex Culp and Johnny Johnson, guard Ian Hawn and center Tanner Perow. Junior Kyle Smithmyer rounds out the otherwise-senior group.
BG hasn't played many teams this season that run the offense Valley utilizes.
"It's definitely a challenge for our defensive ends - Nick Little and Nick Ceschini - to close on the inside game but also to have the speed to get to the outside, which they've shown they've been able to do all year," Wheeler said.
Guilfoyle hasn't allowed more than 198 yards rushing in a game this season and only surrendered more than 128 yards twice. Jextin Pugh and Mike Pleva join Little and Ceschini to complete a BG front four all well in excess of 200 pounds. Linebackers Cody Rossman, D.J. Kitt and Rob Luciano each have at least 66 tackles.
"Their two tackles are really good. They're studs inside there. It's going to be quite a chore for our linemen. Their middle linebacker [Rossman] is just so aggressive," Smith said. "We know they are going to be a force up front."
Bishop Guilfoyle seems to have an advantage in playing larger schools all season in the LHAC, but the Hornets had no trouble stepping up in class last week and waxing Huntingdon, 47-7.
"We actually played a fair amount of competition this year that had some pretty good size up front, so not just the Huntingdon game prepared us. I think we played a solid, single-A schedule," Smith said.
Smith has taken Valley to the playoffs seven times in his nine years. Guilfoyle, though, hasn't been in the postseason since 2009 - the Marauders could get a boost this week with the return of quarterback-defensive back Brandon Chadbourn, who was the team's leading rusher when he was injured in week 4.
"Our sophomore class has had a lot of success over the years, but nothing will get them prepared. I've been trying to do it. I've had a lot of playoff runs. I'm trying to set the picture for them," Wheeler said. "It's going to be exciting for them, and I'm hoping they use that in excitement like they have in big games we've had."