Although coaches don't like to look too far ahead, Whitehall-Yearling High School football coach Rod Lightfoot thought weeks ago that multiple things might be at stake in his team's regular-season finale against London.
Lightfoot has been proven correct, as the Rams will play host to the Red Raiders on Friday, Oct. 26, with several goals on the line.
Both teams are 4-0 in the MSL-Ohio Division, so the outright champion will be determined.
The Rams also are battling for their third consecutive postseason berth, as they were projected to be seventh in Division II, Region 7 this week. The top eight teams qualify for the playoffs.
"This game is for everything," said Lightfoot, whose team is 8-1 overall and on an eight-game winning streak. "It's for a league title. It's to get to Week 11 and there's a lot on our plate. We just have to manage the distractions this week and manage their emotions and try to be businesslike Friday night and take care of what we can take care of."
London is 9-0 overall and already has secured a Division IV, Region 16 postseason berth.
The Rams realize the game likely will hinge on their ability to contain London tailback K.J. Price, who ran for 192 yards and three touchdowns in a 56-0 win over Bexley on Oct. 19.
Last season, Price was named district Offensive Player of the Year after rushing for 25 touchdowns and accounting for more than 2,700 total yards.
"They don't throw the ball hardly at all, if at all," Lightfoot said. "Our guys are going to have to play within our scheme and get downhill and try to handle Price. He's a tremendous back and he creates an incredible challenge for our defense."
Senior linebacker Keon Freeman is ready for the challenge.
"This game means everything," he said. "This is our biggest game of our careers. It would mean everything because I feel like everybody wants us to lose because they see how successful we are. If we win, I will be so happy. I'm ready to play the best. To be the best, you have to beat the best."
London's defense also has been solid. It limited Bexley to minus-14 yards of total offense in its third shutout of the season.
The Rams, meanwhile, are averaging 43 points over their last five games, including a 49-14 victory over Ready on Oct. 19. They outscored the Silver Knights 42-0 in the second half.
"We can't afford to have a slow start against London," Lightfoot said. "We have to work this week to overcome that and design our practices to try and emulate what's going to happen on Friday night the best we can to avoid a slow start."
Quarterback Raymell Byrd rushed for 174 yards and two touchdowns against Ready, and Juvaun Blackshear opened the second half by returning the kickoff 72 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 14.
The Rams haven't lost since Week 1, when they fell 19-6 to Division I Westerville Central.
"Our region is so tough and just to give us a chance (at making the playoffs), we have to win out," Lightfoot said. "London has already secured a spot, (but) we can't worry about Week 11. Nothing is going to matter unless we put together a solid four quarters of play, take care of the ball and eliminate penalties."
Last season, Whitehall defeated London 22-14 in the regular-season finale to earn a stare of the MSL-Ohio title with the Red Raiders and Columbus Academy at 4-1.
Runners close season at district
The boys and girls cross country teams closed the season by competing in the Division I district meet Oct. 20 at Hilliard Darby.
The boys finished 12th (361 points) in the 16-team district 2 race behind champion Hilliard Davidson (30). The top five teams and top 20 individuals advanced to regional Saturday, Oct. 27, at Pickerington North.
Senior Chris Charles was 36th (17 minutes, 47.6 seconds), followed by freshman Daba Hordofe (72nd, 18:53.2), seniors Alex Rodriguez (100th, 20:50.6), Ben Pooch (103rd, 21:07.8) and ReSean Hutter (105th, 21:31.2) and junior Carter Paddock (106th, 21:44.1).
"The kids are a little disappointed, but they always are at this time of the year, especially the seniors, (because) it's their last race," coach Robert Taylor said.
"We had a good, solid season. I'm very proud on how they competed this year."
The girls finished 16th (493) in the 16-team district 2 race behind champion Granville (34) as the top six teams and top 24 individuals advanced to regional.
Junior Selam Alebachew was 83rd (22:59.8), followed by junior Abadite Negasi (97th, 24:58), freshmen Merafe Endalew (107th, 28:03.4) and Mya Cornell (108th, 28:03.5) and juniors Tatiana Figueroa (109th, 28:40.8), Illilli Bakeye (111th, 30:59.9) and Rebekah Revadelo (113th, 33:00.7).
Boys soccer team loses at Davidson
The 38th-seeded boys soccer team lost at 22nd-seeded Davidson 3-0 in the first round of the Division I district tournament Oct. 17. Goalkeeper Jared Alvarez had 11 saves for the Rams, who finished 4-7-6 overall. The Rams finished 1-1-2 in the MSL-Ohio.