The Harvest Preparatory School football team's performance in a 42-8 victory over seventh-seeded Franklin Furnace Green in the first round of the Division VII, Region 27 playoffs Nov. 3 was a pleasant surprise to coach Milan Smith.
The second-seeded Warriors, who improved to 11-0, may need to play even better to continue their postseason considering what they'll be up against when they travel to Logan on Saturday, Nov. 10, for a regional semifinal.
While Harvest Prep is in the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, third-seeded Glouster Trimble, located about an hour west of the West Virginia border, has been a power in the state's smallest division for nearly two decades.
The Tomcats are in the postseason for the ninth consecutive season and improved to 10-1 with a 37-0 victory over sixth-seeded Fisher Catholic on Nov. 3. Their best playoff finish came in 2013 when they were state runners-up.
Trimble has lost in regional semifinals each of the past three seasons.
"They're a tradition-rich program and know how to win these games," Smith said. "They don't change. I respect what they do so much because they don't change, using a 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust mentality. They run a double-tight (end), wishbone, old-school offense. They've got good size, not great, but they play you at the point of attack."
Fisher Catholic is the only common opponent between the programs. The Warriors beat the Irish 12-0 on Oct. 19 on their way to winning the MSL-Cardinal Division title.
Trimble's only loss came against Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, 21-20 on Sept. 22. The Eagles are a Division V power that has advanced to a Region 20 semifinal.
The Tomcats have given up just 40 points on the season and have posted five consecutive shutouts and eight overall.
Quarterback Cameron Kittle and running backs Conner Wright, Sawyer Koons and Max Hooper lead Trimble's offense.
One factor that could help the Warriors is that their health is improving.
Junior Javon Eggert entered the season as one of the team's expected feature backs and rushed for 228 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries in a 32-21 season-opening win over Bexley on Aug. 24. However, he sustained an injury during that game that kept him out for the next two months.
Eggert returned to action against Green to complement a ground game that has been led by senior Daquan Owens-Johnson, junior Khelin Jackson and sophomore Rahshaun Goines at running back.
"We haven't had our starting running back, Javon Eggert, since Week 1," Smith said. "We actually got him some touches. He's a little guy, but he's tough.
"We think Fisher Catholic has a pretty good football team and (Trimble) gave them a pretty good butt whipping. We know we've got our hands full."
Against Green, quarterback Moses Davis ran for an 18-yard touchdown and threw a 17-yard touchdown to Ralph Robinson, while Eggert, Goins and Owens-Johnson all had one rushing touchdown and Jackson returned a fumble 19 yards for a score.
Harvest Prep forced four turnovers and limited Green to 102 total yards.
"It feels great to come out in the first round of the playoffs and win," Owens-Johnson said. "It's our statement to the world telling them that we can win and still play at a very high level. We still come out and work very hard and prepare to be the best football team we can be on game day. We have lots of guys that come out and work really, really hard.
"We had to make sure we minimized our mistakes and came out with the intensity from the very first snap to the very last whistle. We played a complete football game on both ends of the field and at the end of the game, we came out with the 'W.' Now it's on to the next game."
The Harvest Prep-Trimble winner plays top-seeded Lucas or fourth-seeded Waterford in the regional final Nov. 17 at a site to be announced.