WHEELING - There are some calling this the Game of the Year. A pair of undefeated city rivals battling it out in the final week of the regular season.
Game of the Year?
For Linsly (9-0), it will probably be closer to the Game of the Decade when it invades Wheeling Island Stadium at 7 on Friday night to take on Wheeling Central (9-0).
''There's a lot of excitement for us,'' Cadets coach B.J. Depew said. ''This team put its preseason goals together and was very courageous saying it wanted to go undefeated.
''There's no apprehension. This is exactly what we have prepared for.''
Let's take a look at what's on the line:
''It's the last game of the year, and it's for the bragging rights to wining the city,'' Wheeling Central coach Mike Young said. ''Both teams fighting for 10-0.
''It's monumental for everyone's program.''
Perhaps more so for the Cadets, though. Not only will this be its final game of the season - win or lose - but Linsly is still smarting from consecutive losses in the series, both times after it looked as though it had Wheeling Central dead to rights. In last season's contest, the Maroon Knights trailed by 18 points with 11:20 remaining before rallying for a 39-38 victory.
''We haven't talked about not getting the job done twice,'' Depew said. ''We're trying not to tie too much into it.
''In the back of our minds as coaches, we certainly remember.
''But this is about 2011.''
And what a season it has been for both.
A lot of people had this pegged as the year Wheeling Central finally took a step back. With the graduation losses along both sides of the interior line, it didn't seem as though that type of prediction was going out on a limb too far.
''Without a doubt, the guys who have stepped in up front have done fantastic,'' Young said. ''Braxton Nolte, Chance Siebieda, Nick Naumann, Derek Yocke, Ian Iuliucci and David Stanley.
''Those guys have stepped in, and our goal and motto have been to get better each day.
''The same thing in our secondary with guys like Connor Peklinsky, Michael Pleva and Ian Yahnke.''
Depew heard th-ose same whispers about the Knights' decline and could only chuckle. After pouring over film, his opinion ha-sn't cha-nged.
''I gu-ess people could have assumed that given all the turn-over,'' De-pew sa-id. ''This Cen-tral team really is no different.
''I give their coaching staff a ton of credit. They've done a remarkable job keeping the pride and tradition going.
''Those kids believe in what's going on.''
Sophomore Parker Henry leads the Central offense. He's run for an even 700 yards and 10 scores while completing 22 of 49 for 618 and nine touchdowns without an interception.
Gino Bianconi is a two-way threat with 1,094 yards (9.95 a carry) and 17 scores rushing. He's caught six passes for 151 yards and three more scores, giving him 20 overall.
Henry will be tested by a defense that features Akil Blount (seven sacks) as well as Anthony Thompson, Alex Stephens and Chris Stephens, who all have five interceptions.
''The last six years we've had the opportunity to beat Wheeling Central, and this (team) does too,'' Depew said. ''In that regard, we're really looking forward to Friday night.
''It's a great game against a great rival, one who we greatly respect.''
The Cadets are paced by quarterback Alex Stephens who has completed 88 of 157 for 1,570 yards and 26 touchdowns against five interceptions. Chinelo Oparanozie (73 carries for 620 yards and nine TDS) and Mark Dodd (68-368-5) are the leading rushers.
''This is probably the most-talented team we've seen Linsly have,'' Young said. ''It's definitely the most balanced in terms of offense-defense.
''It's definitely huge. It has all the makings of a great game.''
Alex Stephens will have to know where Yahnke is at all times. He leads the Knights with seven interceptions, while Nolte paces the defense with 3.5 sacks.