WOODSFIELD - Of course, Jay Circosta acknowledges career victory 300 was sweet. But, oh, what the Wizard of Woodsfield would give for No. 301 on Friday night.
That achievement would obviously mean Circosta's Monroe Central Seminoles had knocked off St. Thomas Aquinas High of Stark County and advanced in the OHSAA playoffs.
Circosta also acknowledges there's much work to be done before the reality of a week 11 victory can be accomplished.
Studying film of Friday's opponent in Monroe County, the Noles' crafty coach insists it's imperative his team produce its finest effort of the season.
"We will definitely be tested," Circosta assured. "Aquinas may only be 6-4 but they play a high-quality schedule and are very deserving of being (here)."
As are the Seminoles. Following a 13-7 season-opening setback against Columbiana, Monroe ran the table, reeling off nine consecutive victories, including Week 10's milestone triumph at Buckeye Trail.
Circosta finds it difficult comparing Aquinas to a prior opponent faced by the Noles.
The Knights, under first-year head coach and Aquinas grad Tim Budd, are making their first postseason appearance since 1988, an all the more impressive achievement considering Budd's ball club began the season with three consecutive losses.
"We feel we played a very competitive schedule, and one which hopefully makes us playoff-prepared," Budd said. "One thing we know for sure is Monroe Central is used to this (postseason) environment. I think this is something like their third straight (playoff) year."
Circosta stresses the importance of executing in all aspects.
"We feel we need to play ball control and do what we do best," he stated. "Aquinas has some good-looking athletes with a nice running attack. Stopping their ground game will be our first priority."
The Knights coach is equally complimentary.
"When I look at Monroe Central on film, I see a team with a bruising run game and the athletes to execute it. That's a definite concern," Budd advised.
From the Seminoles' standpoint, it all begins with Tyler Kinchen, Monroe's multi-talented, two-way team leader.
The 6-foot, 230-pound veteran is concluding his tenure in a Noles' uniform and closing in on 4,000 career rushing yards. This season, Kinchen, in 160 carries, logged an even 1,000 running stripes.
A dual threat, Kinchen has completed 68-of-130 throws for 948 yards and 11 touchdowns. He's been intercepted just five times.
Steady senior Kole Hogue (5-11, 190) is another Monroe mainstay. Recognized for his physical running style, Hogue adds 510 infantry stripes with five visits to the end zone.
Circosta has been most pleased with the progress of sophomore Curtis Nixon, a 6-0, 160-pound running back. "Curtis is one of our most versatile players with excellent ability to both run and catch the football," Circosta noted. Nixon has logged 300 rushing and 215 receiving yards, totaling nine touchdowns.
Aquinas features a run-first offense with an impressive number of capable personnel to execute the game plan.
Quarterback Tyler Moeglin is a three-year starter whose prep career blossomed this season. The 5-9, 160-pound senior has passed for 907 yards and five touchdowns. Moeglin is an equally adept runner as indicated by his 560 yards and 10 TD totals.
Junior Bryan Wilkins has his number called often and has 550 yards on his resume. Ditto the same for 5-7, 155-pound junior Josiah Moore who's contributed another 400 stripes.
"We've had the good fortune of being able to spread the ball around and take pressure off just one or two players," the Knights' coach reported.
A pair of capable wideouts are seniors Sean Dempsey (6-0, 175) and Colby Hart (5-11, 150). The duo have combined for 51 receptions.
Perhaps, the Knights most high profile athlete is 6-4, 220-pound junior tight end/defensive end John Rich, who Budd reports is receiving early D-I attention from the likes of Boston College, Northwestern, Cincinnati and Duke.
Defensively, Aquinas is led by 5-7, 165-pound middle linebacker Eric Rude who has logged a team-leading 80 tackles. Rich, meanwhile, has compiled eight quarterback sacks.
Friday night's Division V, Region 17 semifinal kicks off at 7:30 p.m. in Woodsfield. Tickets are available at the gate.
Gibson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org