With the smell of the playoffs in the air, a pair of teams sitting on the edge with little room for error will meet Saturday night at Monarch Stadium in Moundsville in an important matchup.
While Beallsville is 5-3 and seventh in the Ohio Division VII, Region 25 standings, Bishop Donahue is sitting at 4-3. The Bishops are getting healthy and that is something that could very well be bad news for upcoming opponents.
Coach John Durdines' team is coming off an impressive 48-6 whacking of Paden City last week, a game in which Donahue has been as healthy as it has been since Week 3. Meanwhile, the Blue Devils managed to keep chugging along with a 35-21 victory against Bridgeport.
Jesse Padlow and the Bishops take on Beallsville
"We are similar in that every week is a playoff game for us right now,'' Durdines said. ''The kids understand that and they know how good Beallsville is and that we will have our work cut out for us."
The biggest difference for the Bishops a week ago was the ultra-successful return of senior do-it-all Lavonte Hampton, who caught four passes for 75 yards and four touchdowns while also returning an interception for a score against the Wildcats.
"I think we are starting to get healthy at the right time," Durdines said. "When the injuries started piling up in Weeks 2-6, we basically were playing a lot of younger players, which now has given us some pretty good depth. We can bring kids in to spell others and there isn't much of a dropoff anymore."
Junior quarterback Jesse Padlow is another player who has missed time this season but has been getting back into a groove and will only improve with Hampton's return. Padlow threw for 246 and five score last week and has thrown for 1,124 and 13 touchdowns.
There are plenty of options of running back. Senior Austin Cunningham is coming off a seven-carry, 72 yard performance.
"Donahue is a quality football team," Beallsville coach Paul Kanzigg said. "They have a decent line and some very good skill position players, including the Hampton kid. They will be a real challenge for us.
"You also have to remember that their record is a little deceiving because of all of the injuries they had. But they now have most of those kids back."
Bishop Donahue started 2-0 before the injuries began mounting and had lost three of four before beating Paden City. Included in those losses were Clay-Battelle, Clarksburg Notre Dame and powerful Weirton Madonna, all teams that the Bishops could see again if they make and enjoy any kind of successful playoff run.
Another factor making Saturday night's contest big for Donahue is the fact that a trip to Wheeling Island Stadium to battle Wheeling Central is on the agenda for the following weekend.
Even though a loss will not totally destroy Beallsville's possible playoff existence, a victory against the Bishops could mean a better seeding and possibly avoiding an early-round meeting with the two big powerhouses in their region, Shadyside and Steubenville Catholic.
The Devils close with currently winless Bellaire St. John in Week 10, so finishing higher than the seven or eight spot in the region could be a big deal.
"To me they are one of the most, if not the most, underrated teams in the Valley," Durdines said of the Blue Devils. "They lost a game they should have won and then they lost to two of the best teams in the area in Shadyside and Weirton Madonna. They can run the ball and throw it and they play together so well. They are just very good."
Sophomore quarterback Chase Mercer has done a fine job for the Blue Devils, completing 68 of 122 tries for 792 yards and 11 touchdowns. Having good receivers is a key and Mercer has one of the best in the Valley in senior Derek Lucas, who has 39 grabs for 402 yards and caught a 68-yard touchdown pass a week ago. Mikey Palmer has caught 27 passes for 260.
Palmer ran the ball three times for 81 yards against the Bulldogs while senior Bruce Sefert added seven tries for 13 yards and a score.
"We have stressed to the boys that if we win this one and we are pretty much in," Kanzigg added. "This is a very important game for the program and the school and we have to be at our best. I really believe this is going to be a good fought football game."