BRIDGEPORT - It has been a long time since Cameron's football team has played an important 10th game of the season, with the possibility of an 11th contest.
But that is what is on the line Friday night when Coach Jim Rogers and his Dragons head into the Buckeye State to take on a struggling Bridgeport team that has lost three games in a row.
Coming off a rout of Bellaire St. John, Cameron stands at 5-4 and must win to have any chance of advancing to the postseason for the first time since 2003. Meanwhile, Rudy Vavrock's Bulldogs are 3-6 after dropping a 35-7 contest at Shadyside.
''The kids understand the importance of this one,'' Rogers said. ''All we are asking of them is to concentrate on what they need to do and go out and give us their maximum effort. Can't ask for much more than that.''
After finishing 12-1 and advancing to the Division VI, Region 23 title game a season ago, things have not gone well for Bridgeport since a thrilling 21-20 upset victory against Weirton Madonna in Week 6.
Add to that the fact senior quarterback Cole Smelley, the Bulldogs' glue all year, did not play last week due to an ankle injury.
Smelley, who had started 42 consecutive games dating back to his freshman season, has rushed for 920 yards and six scores and gives Bridgeport the ability to throw the ball also. Last week the Bulldogs were one-dimensional in throwing just two passes, neither of which found their mark.
Dallas Fields did finish with 98 rushing yards and a score, taking over the brunt of things with Smelley sidelined.
''Bridgeport is the toughest 3-6 football team in the OVAC,'' Rogers added. ''They have had some bad luck, and not having Cole last week really hurt them. There has been some things not go their way, and it isn't that they aren't trying.
''We are going to try and close the season the right way, but we definitely expect a huge battle from them.''
On the other hand, Cameron's offense rolled up some big numbers and was able to get a lot of players involved in the action.
Senior quarterback Ryan Hughes had a big night, throwing for 250 yards and tying a school record with five touchdown passes. He also went past the 1,000-yard passing plateau. For the season, Hughes has thrown for 1,225 yards with 11 scores and just two interceptions.
''We had a good game last week and were able to open things up a little bit,'' Rogers continued. ''I think we are starting to gel more and more the later the season gets and Ryan (Hughes) was in a zone throwing the ball."
Cameron boasts one of the finest small-school receivers in the valley in junior Mark Walker, who has 30 grabs for 491 and seven scores on the season. He caught a pair of touchdown passes a week ago while Austin Warsinsky and Alex Jones had one each.
Rogers' defense did allow 244 rushing yards to the winless Fighting Irish, but limited them to 26 through the air.
As for Smelley's status for the contest?
''Cole is definitely getting better and I fully expect him to play this week against Cameron,'' Vavrock concluded.