BARNESVILLE - It's the battle for the coveted 'Milk Jug' in western Belmont County.
Bordering rivals Union Local and Barnesville are set to meet Friday on the refurbished grass of Shamrock Stadium in a 7 p.m. start.
The Jets and Shamrocks come into their annual showdown with different psyches. The Shamrocks are coming off their first win, a cherished 36-32 victory against Meadowbrook.
"It really feels like there is a monkey off our backs," Shamrocks rookie coach Matt Johnson said. "It felt really good to get that win, especially in the (Dowler Memorial) game."
The Jets, meanwhile, saw their struggles continue. They lost their 21st straight game and failed to score for the second consecutive week. But, coach Mark Cisar contends his team is really close to a breakout performance.
"At times, we look decent and we move the ball, but other times, we don't play with any consistency," Cisar said. "We just can't seem to put it all together. I think we've ran and thrown the ball decently at times, but we've not put it together yet. We need to get first downs, move the chains and not put ourselves in a hole."
Though the Jets have struggled, Cisar was very upbeat about how well his team has stuck together through the trying times.
"We've been really positive as coaches and players," Cisar said. "Our kids have been resilient in their work ethics. They believe in each other and believe that they can win. This is a really good group of kids and something good is going to happen for these kids."
While they've yet to register a point, Johnson observed on film that the Jets haven't been that far away.
"I think against Meadowbrook, (UL) was inside the 5-yard line three times and in the red zone two other times," Johnson said. "They do good things offensively, but they just can't seem to punch it in. I think they'll eventually get it figured out and they're still tough to prepare for because they can operate out of so many formations."
The Shamrocks rebounded from an opening-week dismantling at the hands of John Glenn to win last week.
"We made a lot of improvement," Johnson said. "We had kids who looked shell-shocked in week one because they'd never been in that situation, but we had a good week of preparation and that's a credit to the kids to come back and work the way they did after the first game."
The Shamrocks have won the last two meetings with the Jets after rallying for a 39-20 victory last season. Union Local led 20-7 in the first quarter, but were shut down the rest of the way.
This year's contest is going to come down to big plays. Union Local's offense has traditionally been built on those under Cisar's watch, while the Shamrocks made three big defensive plays, returning three interceptions for scores.
"We need to make a couple of big plays and give ourselves a chance," Cisar said. "Barnesville does a good job of showing different looks and they've got guys coming from everywhere. It's going to come down to who makes the big plays at right time. We need to make a couple, so we can get our engine going."
Union Local's offense is triggered by sophomore Gavin Porter. He's passed for 226 yards and he's been picked off four times.
On the ground, the Jets are led by Eric Dunfee who has 51 yards. He's also their leading receiver with five receptions for 70 yards. Kaleb McDiffitt has 6 receptions for 48 yards, while sophomore Tater Blake has 6 catches as well.
The Shamrocks watched sophomore Collin Wilson return a pair of interceptions for scores last week. David Stewart also had a pick six.
"It would be great if we could rely on that every week," Johnson joked. "We've got a challenge ahead of us this week because Union Local gives you so many looks."
The Barnesville offense is led by Kyle Yaquinta, who stepped in at quarterback. He completed 10-of-18 last week for 139 yards and a score. He's ran for 98 yards and a score. Freshman Isaac McGee was the Shamrocks' starting quarterback coming out of camp, but was injured at John Glenn.
Colton Pritchard is the Shamrocks' leading receiver with five catches for 85 yards. Kyle McIntire has caught four passes for 66 yards and Jacob Anderson has made three catches for 62 yards and a score.
"From watching Barnesville on film, I'm really impressed with their speed," Cisar said. "They made several big plays last week, on both sides of the ball, and they've made some nice adjustments at quarterback with using two guys. They matched up well with Meadowbrook and played well and made good on their opportunities to score."