WINTERSVILLE - The prep football season is still relatively young, but there's already a showdown game on tap.
It's a battle of unbeatens at Kettlewell Memorial Stadium on Friday night as Buckeye 8 plays kicks off with a bang for Indian Creek and St. Clairsville.
''The next eight weeks are like a gauntlet,'' Red Devils coach Brett McLean said. ''There are big games every week for everyone and it can certainly wear on you.''
Running back Blake Roar and the Indian Creek Redskins hope to be hitting the end zone often Friday night against St. Clairsville.
St. Clairsville's Corey Ernest
Indian Creek's Logan Woods
Not much has worn on either the Red Devils nor the Redskins this season as both have been relatively unchallenged en route to their respective 3-0 starts.
St. Clairsville steamrolled Wheeling Park, Brooke and Dayton Jefferson, while the Redskins were victorious against Weir, East Liverpool and Oak Glen.
''We've gotten a little better each week, which is certainly a positive,'' Redskins coach Andrew Connor said. ''We've been able to play hard and pretty physical. However, we've been suceptible to some big plays and we've been somewhat careless with the football. Those are things we've got to work on.''
The Red Devils are making their third road trip in four weeks and it's their first time they'll play on a grass field.
However, that's really of little concern to McLean.
''We'll practice some this week on grass and we practiced some in the preseason on it, too,'' McLean said. ''What really worries me is that we've not been on the field for four full quarters yet. How are we going to react in those situations?''
Against a quality Redskins team this could be the week the Red Devils are put to the test for the entire 48 minutes.
''We pr-obably co-uldn't be staring at any tougher of an opener than at Indian Cr-eek,'' Mc-Lean said. ''They're one of the most talented teams in the league and we've been watching many of their kids for three years now.''
The Red Devils have plenty of talent in their own right, considering they've got two future major college recruits in senior Dan Monteroso (Boston College) and junior Michael Ferns (Michigan) and plenty of other weapons the Redskins defense and coordinator Sean Grinch will be facing.
''We've seen all three of St. Clairsville's games and they're able to take whatever you're giving them,'' Connor said. ''Usually a team hangs its hat on one part of the offense primarily, but St. Clairsville is really balanced.
"Our defense is going to have to play smart assignment football.''
While the Red Devils' aforementioned players get much of the publicity, the St. C. engine is fueled by senior quarterback Matt Kinnick. He's completed 27 of 39 passes for 563 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Junior speedster Jaylon Brown leads the ground attack with 300 yards and five touchdowns. Monteroso has been the focal point for St. Clairsville the last two weeks. He's caught 13 passes for 313 yards and seven touchdowns.
Ferns, who plays all over on offense, has run for 87 yards and a score and has four receptions for 106 yards and two touchdowns.
Titus Lepic and Jerrid Marhefka are also options. Marhefka is playing with a cast on his hand, which has limited his pass-catching abilities.
The Red Devils line, which is comprised of Corey Ernest, Cole Stephen, Joel Giffin, Tom Parker and Nick VanVoltenburg, has been brilliant this season in protecting for Kinnick and opening holes for Brown.
''We're really impressed with Creek's defensive front,'' McLean said.
''They've got smart, fast and physical players. They're quicker than teams we've seen to this point, so this will certainly be a good gauge of where we are.''
The Redskins defense is led by linebackers Shane Winland and Tyler Sharpe, who've combined for 45 tackles.
Montell McClelland is an impressive defensive end.
On the offensive side, Creek is averaging almost 40 points a game behind the solid quarterback play of Alex Young.
The two-headed rushing monster of Blake Roar and Logan Woods has been impressive. Each has better than 200 yards thus far.
''Indian Creek is impressive because they spread you out or they can line up and play physical and just try to maul you,'' McLean said.
''They do a lot of things well, they've got a stable of backs and their quarterback is the best we've faced so far.''
The Red Devils defense has been staunch since a few halftime adjustments were made against Wheeling Park.
Ernest, Derek Shunk, Ferns, Stephen, Ben Coleman, Brown and Luke Smith are a few of the defensive leaders for the Devils.
''We can't have the unforced errors or bad penalties,'' Connor said. ''We can't put ourselves behind the chains or have positive plays called back. Plus, we've got to be able to throw the ball.''