That is the mindset of Clyde head football coach Ryan Carter and his Flier team as they visit Huron Friday night in what has essentially become a winner-stays-at home game in terms of playoff implications.
Clyde (8-1, 5-1 Sandusky Bay Conference) enters the game ranked No. 12 in the Division III Associated Press poll. The Fliers are currently third in the Div. III Region 8 computer rankings.
The top four teams in the region host a first-round game next Friday night. The Tigers (7-2, 5-1) are looking to jump from sixth to the top four in Div. V Region 16 with a win over the Fliers.
“It’s kind of that way for both of us. If we win we’re definitely at home and if we lose, good chance we’re on the road,” Carter said. “It’s obviously equally important to both teams. We told the kids the playoffs start this week for us. It’s a big game, so we want to get ready to go. Each week here on out is a playoff atmosphere.
“If you’re going to do anything or continue to win or play well in the playoffs, you’ll have to beat good teams, and Huron is a good team. We need to play our best football at the end of the year and hope everything we did at this point prepares us for that.”
In his first year coaching the football team, Carter also gets to face a Cody Thompson-led team three times in a single year, as opposed to just two basketball games in the winter.
“He’s been a pain in our side on the basketball floor for a couple years now,” Carter said of Thompson. The Toledo recruit brings with him 2,368 all-purpose yards and 28 TDs into Friday’s game.
“He’s just one of those kids who can make plays out of plays that are stopped, at least assignment-wise,” Carter said of Thompson. “That’s the biggest fear when you play someone like that. You can have him to where you may think you have him stopped, and he’ll make a couple guys miss. You can’t ever let a play die. I’ve watched him run away and be three-quarters tackled and still go another 20 yards.”
The Fliers are led offensively by senior quarterback Tim Hoppe, who has completed 84-of-142 pass attempts for 1,635 yards with 20 TDs and five interceptions. He’s also added 322 yards and 2 TDs rushing.
“He’s had a great year, and really been very open to everything I’ve tried to teach him offensively from Day 1,” Carter said of his QB. “It was a complete change offensively for us, and he has completely bought into what we’re trying to do. I don’t think he’s a finished product yet, he still grows each and every week. He’s a good kid, and deserves to have a good year.”
Still, it’s been quite the season for the Fliers, as not many envisioned an 8-1 team while facing a schedule with Tiffin Columbian, Eastwood, Bellevue and Perkins while replacing the key losses from 2012.
“With the staff I had in place, and how hard they worked and the kids we had, it’s not a surprise,” Carter said. “We weren’t picked obviously to be where we’re at right now, but a lot of times you don’t win with X’s and O’s and running the same system, and things like that.
“Sometimes it comes down to who you put out there. You win with people. It’s one those situations that’s just really come together for us, kids have believed in what we’re trying to do.
“We obviously want to finish on a strong note, and hosting a game would be great. But to get to this point, it’s a tribute to our staff and type of kids we have here.”