Hawks (12-1) Panthers (11-2)
Senior two-way lineman Nick Boeriu talked about how physical he and his teammates on the Hartley High School football team were up front in a 42-20 win over Wheelersburg on Nov. 23 at Nelsonville-York in the Division V, Region 17 final.
Moreover, senior running back and defensive back Alonzo Saxton said the Hawks' defense "can punch you in the mouth."
It's all part of how a team must play to survive at this juncture in the season, according to coach Brad Burchfield.
The next task figures to be more of the same for the Hawks, who have reached a state semifinal for the third time in the last four seasons.
Hartley (12-1) faces Akron Manchester (11-2) at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30, at Arlin Field in Mansfield. The winner plays defending state champion Coldwater or West Jefferson in the state final Dec. 7 at a site and time to be announced.
"We had over 400 yards rushing (against Wheelersburg), so I thought we (controlled the line of scrimmage)," Burchfield said. "It sounds like next week is going to be another physical game, but that's the only way to play in late November. I think (Manchester) runs (the ball) quite a bit. It's going to be a busy week."
Senior running back Sam Mackowiak rushed for 240 yards and five touchdowns on 24 carries against Wheelersburg, as Hartley attempted only two passes.
Manchester didn't attempt any passes in a 69-21 win over Columbiana Crestview in the Region 15 final Nov. 23. The Panthers rushed for 616 yards, which is the ninth-highest total for a game according to the OHSAA.
Leading the way for Manchester was 6-foot-2, 220-pound running back Mason Hayes, who rushed for 273 yards and five touchdowns on 25 carries.
Wide receiver Anthony Miltner also was a major contributor to Manchester's ground attack against Crestview, rushing for 191 yards and two scores on 15 carries.
Manchester, which qualified for the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season but is making its first state semifinal appearance since 1997, when it was the Division IV runner-up.
While competing in Division IV, Hartley won the state championship in 2010, was a regional runner-up in 2011 and lost to Clarksville Clinton-Massie 45-21 in a state semifinal last season.
"Last year still burns a little bit," Mackowiak said. "We've talked about how we want to (win a state title) again, like we did our freshman year."