WOODSFIELD - Monroe Central and River have developed into quite the rivalry over the last several years.
It'll be renewed again Friday as the Seminoles begin the home portion of their schedule when the Pilots visit in a 7 p.m. kickoff.
The Pilots and Seminoles come into their PVC showdown riding different waves of emotion. River has rolled to a 2-0 start by trouncing both Fort Frye and Newcomerstown in the first two weeks.
"We hadn't beat Newcomerstown in three seasons, so to make a two-hour drive and get that victory was very important for us," Pilots coach Mike Flannery said. "You can throw the records out this week because it's River and Monroe. We know Monroe will come prepared to play and we'll have to do the same."
Monroe Central, meanwhile, is looking to get back on track after dropping a decisive 35-7 setback to rival Shadyside Friday. The Seminoles were victorious in Week 1 when they tripped Waterloo.
"We have to get better offensively," Circosta said. "We've not found any consistency on offense and our defense has been on the field far too long. The two teams we've played have turned the ball over 11 times against us, but we've not been able to capitalize."
Monroe Central has won the last three meetings with the Pilots, including last season's 14-0 victory in Hannibal.
"I am not sure we're getting Monroe at a good time," Flannery cautioned. "It's their home opener and they're coming off a loss to another rival. We've got the utmost respect for Jay Circosta and his program and his coaching staff. We know they'll have the I's dotted and the T's crossed for this week."
When Circosta popped in the Pilots' film, he thought he was looking again at Shadyside.
"In a lot of ways, (River) mirrors Shadyside," Circosta said. "They've got an experienced quarterback, two nice running backs, nice receivers and seasoned people up front. This will be another big test for us."
The Pilots' offense is led by senior quarterback Cody Caldwell. The veteran has passed for 393 yards and three touchdowns on 18 of 36 aerials.
River's ground game boasts a solid mix of power and speed thanks to Nick Asturi, who provides the power, and Jordan Sapp, who provides the speed. Asturi has ran for 241 yards and four touchdowns. Sapp, meanwhile, has added 212 yards.
"Nick and Jordan have been a good one-two punch for us," Flannery said. "We're going to attack teams with what we do best and that's being as balanced as we can be."
When Caldwell goes to the air, senior Kam Brown is the homerun hitter. He's made 12 receptions for 317 yards and three touchdowns this season. Dallas Necessary is the second-leading pass catcher with four grabs.
"We have to cut down on the amount of big plays we're allowing," Circosta said. "When you're not getting much going on offense, you just can't allow that many big plays."
The Seminoles' offense is triggered by senior quarterback Korey Lafferre. Sophomore Levi Brown is a solid running back option. Both were held primarily in check last week against the Tigers. Cameron Jorris is the Seminoles' big-play threat in the passing game.
"(Lafferre) is an athlete at quarterback," Flannery observed. "They've got several kids they can use offensively. We're definitely going to have to play well if we hope to win the game."
Lafferre has passed for 99 yards on 7 of 23 accuracy. He was picked off twice last week. Brown has ran for 167 yards on 32 carries, while Lafferre has ran for 124 yards on 29 carries. He scored the Seminoles' only touchdown last week.
"We've not really sustained anything offensively," Circosta said. "It's kind of tough when you're trying to get the offense going against teams the caliber of Shadyside and now River."
The Pilots' defense has been staunch. Brett Rosen, Evan Eggleston, Jonathan Stewart, Bryce Cross, Asturi and Sapp are Pilots' defensive leaders.
"I think they've got 10 of 11 (starters) back from last year and we had a tough time moving the ball last season against River," Circosta said. "They're solid all the way around, whether it's up front, at linebacker or in the secondary."