However, both teams are treating the game as a must-win scenario when the Pirates (8-1, 6-0 SBC) host the Rockets (7-2, 5-1) in a Sandusky Bay Conference showdown at Firelands Regional Medical Center stadium.
The Rockets must win to force a co-title with the Pirates, while it also must win if they are to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Oak Harbor enters the game No. 9 in the Division IV Region 14 computer ratings, and the top eight teams make the 32-team playoffs. There isn’t a scenario where the Rockets qualify with a loss.
While the Pirates have clinched a SBC title share and a playoff berth in Division III Region 10, coach Jason Ziegler says the game is without a doubt a must-win.
“We know they are coming in with a do or die situation for them,” Ziegler said of the Rockets. “But in a lot of ways, that is how we are looking at our situation. One of our goals is to be the SBC champs, and we talked to our kids about needing to be selfish.
“We don’t want to share anything. In order to do that, have to play strong physical football. We have to line up with their big line, try to control things up front and stop a running back (Mark Konieczny) who is pretty darn good. We are going back to basics this week and trying to be a physical team that controls the line of scrimmage.”
Meanwhile, a Perkins win can also give it a chance at making the debut season of FRMC Stadium even more special by hosting a Week 11 game at the venue next Saturday.
However, the Pirates trail Bryan (9-0) by roughly 1.2 points entering Friday, which will be a tall order to overcome, even with a win vs. Oak Harbor.
Should Bryan beat Evergreen (5-4), it will finish with one more win than the Pirates, coupled with strong second-level points from Archbold (8-1), Patrick Henry (7-2) and Liberty Center (7-2).
All told, Perkins has less than a 25 percent chance of hosting next week. In all likelihood, the Pirates, ranked No. 11 in the Division III Associated Press poll, will travel to Bryan, ranked No. 3 in the poll.
While Ziegler and his coaching staff may be doing some off the radar homework on possible opponents next week, it is nothing that is being addressed with the team.
“We really haven’t said anything, honestly,” he said. “The biggest thing we talk about is winning this SBC title and having it to ourselves. That’s basically all we’ve talked about this week, just like the week before it was about Margaretta.
“The reason we can do that, and it’s been successful and working for this team, is the senior leadership we have. You take it one day at a time, you can’t look ahead. Too many teams have looked ahead and they get bit. Our seniors understand that.”
Ziegler added a perfect example of that involved the Pirates in 2010. Clyde (7-0) came to Perkins fresh off earning the No. 1 spot in the AP poll earlier in the week to face a scuffling Pirates team that was 1-6. But it was the Pirates pulling off the 20-17 stunner in overtime.
“We understand that and use those examples to say you have to look at the game now and in front of you,” Ziegler said. “Things will work out the way they need to work out.”