This is the time of the football season when eyes begin to focus on the playoffs for the teams with the better records, and the time is now for Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic and Bishop Carroll Catholic.
In fact, the time couldn't be better, but the Marauders and Huskies have very different ideas of what constitutes the perfect time.
"Penn Cambria only had the ball twice the whole first half [when it played Bishop Carroll]," Guilfoyle coach Justin Wheeler said. "Every possession is really important. This is a team that really wants to control the ball. We want to pick up the tempo. We want it to be a fast-paced kind of game offensively, and I know that's not what they want."
Carroll's methodical approach will be pitted against the Marauders' ability to put points on the board in the blink of an eye in a critical contest between two of the top teams in the Laurel Highlands Conference Section 1 and District 6 Class A standings on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Mansion Park.
Both teams are 3-2 overall. Guilfoyle is 3-0 in the section and on a three-game winning streak. Carroll just had a three-game winning streak snapped last week by town rival Central Cambria and checks in at 2-1 in section play.
"They were a little bit upset [about losing], but we've turned the page and flipped over to the new week. We can't ponder on other games," Bishop Carroll coach Greg Snyder said. "Bishop Guilfoyle presents a problem. We're going to their place on homecoming, and they're hitting on all cylinders right now. Their special teams are fabulous. They have a lot of great weapons. We have to come out and play our game. We've got to bounce back."
Game: Bishop Carroll Huskies (3-2) vs. Bishop Guilfoyle Marauders (3-2)
Where: Mansion Park, Altoona
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
The coaches: Bishop Carroll - Greg Snyder (4-11, second year); Bishop Guilfoyle - Justin Wheeler (13-13, third year)
Series record: Bishop Guilfoyle, 23-9 (first met in 1961)
Last meeting: Bishop Guilfoyle, 28-0 (Oct. 6, 2012)
This is a matchup of two of the top defenses in the area. Carroll has surrendered an area-low 44 points this season. Only four area teams have given up fewer than BG's 73 points allowed.
However, that's not the whole story. Although Carroll has some good speed on the perimeter, the Huskies would rather pound the ball at opponents with running backs Tyler Janosik, Dan Lesney and Dan Frederick, eating up the clock and keeping the BC defense off the field and fresh.
Carroll has piled up more than 200 yards on the ground in each of its last two games, with Janosik punishing opposing defenses to the tune of 257 yards on 46 carries. He has 433 yards and five touchdowns this season.
Wheeler will look to his front seven rotation of Nick Little, Andrew Berger, John Taddei, Matt Gormley, Rob Luciano, D.J. Kitt, Owen Wolf and Aaron Yasulitis to blunt the force of Carroll's rugged offensive line and bruising approach.
"They're physical, and they run the ball between the tackles pretty well. We told the defensive line the challenge is going to be on them and the linebackers this week to really stop their run game. They really get after you," Wheeler said.
Carroll's problem has been having much to show for its dominance of the field and the clock. The Huskies outgained Central Cambria by 130 yards last game but only had one touchdown to show for it and lost to the Red Devils 17-7. Carroll only has scored 70 points all year and the most it's managed in any game is 21.
"We need to finish," Snyder said. "We are a ball-control team. We want to be that type of team. We want to eat up minutes. But we want to finish and score when we do that. That's the main thing we have to do - finish our drives and not turn the ball over."
After a slow start, Guilfoyle has gotten itself in gear with previously injured Brandon Chadbourn back at quarterback. The Marauders have scored 75 points over the last two games, helped a bit by Chadbourn's two punt returns for scores, as well.
Wheeler said Carroll's defense ranks with Richland among the two best his team will face this year.
"Over the last two games, we've played pretty complete football games," Wheeler said. "If we can somehow get some scores on the board, it really will help get them out of their element."
Guilfoyle and Carroll currently are ranked fifth and sixth in the District 6 Class A point rankings. The top eight teams make the playoffs, and the respective coaches are left to walk a tightrope between not wanting to get too caught up in the postseason while making it clear that every win at this point is vital.
"We let the wins take care of themselves. If you look at each game and think we need to win this one and it doesn't matter if we win this one, it doesn't bode well for you," Snyder said. "You have to take each week at a time and try to win every game."