Slow starts to their respective seasons likely will keep both the Northland and Beechcroft high school football teams out of the playoffs, but both have plenty of incentive entering their regular-season finale Friday, Oct. 27.
The host Cougars have won 25 consecutive City League-North Division games and already have clinched at least a share of the league title, their fourth in a row, but would like to earn it outright.
If the Vikings can snap Beechcroft's league winning streak, they, too, will earn a share of the title along with Mifflin.
The Cougars are 5-0 in the City-North, while Mifflin is 5-1 and Northland is 4-1.
"We've got a chance to at least get a piece of the North title," Vikings coach Brian Staats said. "It's the same defense they've always had. They do what they do and, as the year goes on, they've gotten better at it because they've gotten more reps."
Northland still is holding on to hopes of making the Division II, Region 7 playoffs, where they'd likely join Mifflin, which is 8-1 overall heading into its non-league game Friday, Oct. 27, at Aurora. The Vikings were projected to be 13th in the region entering Week 10 and need a win as well as help from numerous others to make it.
The Cougars aren't mathematically eliminated, but they were projected to be 15th in Division III, Region 11 and need several teams ahead of them to lose to have a chance.
"We can drop zone and we can blitz (on defense)," Beechcroft coach B.J. Queen said. "Bill Brown, our defensive coordinator, has been around forever and there isn't anything he hasn't seen. It's just been the kids buying in more and more each week."
According to Queen, senior running back Shemar Samuel has rushed for more than 1,000 yards to lead the Cougars' offense.
Sophomores Alhaji Sidibe (LB/OL) and Devon Wooden (DB) have provided strong contributions for the first time this season as well.
"I like how the team has come together," Sidibe said.
The Vikings have been led by junior running back J.J. Branham, senior wide receiver Mike Williams, junior wide receiver Jesse Prewitt III and sophomore wide receiver Kalil Branham.
J.J. Branham rushed for 204 yards and three touchdowns and Williams scored three touchdowns in a 48-13 win over East on Oct. 20. Prewitt III has returned after missing more than six games with an injury.
"We're getting better," Staats said. "It goes back to spreading it around some because we've been able to make adjustments to our base stuff."
Scots, 76ers to meet for City title
The race for the City-South championship will be finalized when the Walnut Ridge football team plays host to Independence on Friday, Oct. 27.
The Scots improved to 8-0 overall and 5-0 in the league with a 36-28 win over Marion-Franklin on Oct. 20 to earn at least a share of the title. Their league contest Oct. 13 at South was canceled because of an incident that occurred at Walnut Ridge on the day of the game.
Despite losing the potential playoff points, the Scots were projected to be first in Division II, Region 7 with a home playoff game in the first round. They last made the postseason in 2009.
"The kids are super excited," said Scots coach Byron Mattox, whose team has won 12 consecutive games dating to last season. "Our kids are unassuming. (This) week's big and we've done something we haven't done for a while and we're real proud of it. We're locked in and focused on what we've got to do. We practice hard because they need all the reps they can get."
Walnut Ridge outgained Marion-Franklin 526-278 in total yards and had 24 first downs as quarterback Isaiah Murphy threw for three touchdowns.
Independence is 8-1 overall and 5-1 in the league after beating South 54-6 on Oct. 20.
Demontae Taylor rushed for 203 yards and Daleron McCarrell and Darante Ervin both scored two touchdowns against the Bulldogs.