The playoffs are in full force and, in the regional finals, comes what could turn out to be one of the best matchups of the entire season. The St. Clairsville Red Devils have earned homefield advantage and will face one of their biggest challenges of the year in the Licking Valley Panthers. The Panthers are projected to win the game 29-26 but nobody truly knows what's in store for Sunday's game. It's do or die for each team as always in the postseason. Regardless of the outcome, each team can take comfort in the fact that they had a successful enough season to get here, but only one team will be satisfied with the result as the other's season will end on a loss. The Panthers, one of the top teams in Division 4, come into the game ranked 9th. The Red Devils come in ranked 11th. A new matchup on the schedule for each team, Sunday's game is a chance for each to test its skills and strategies against an unfamiliar opponent. Stylistically and schematically, past matchups are often used as a guiding tool. This week, however, each team will likely take time to adjust to an unfamiliar opponent, which should make for some added excitement.
Looking to build upon their 3-game winning streak, Licking Valley comes into the week at 9-3. After their 56-36 win against the Indian Valley Braves, they are confident in their ability to finish strong. The Panthers offense has been one of the best in the division, especially in recent weeks. For the year, they rank 17th in Division 4 with 36.2 points per game. Over the last 2 weeks, they've scored an average of 36.2. On defense, their last few weeks haven't even done justice to how good they've been all season. They've given up 24 points per game over their last 2, down from their average of 13.9, which ranks 11th in their division on the season.
St. Clairsville is no stranger to winning recently as they come off of a 12-game winning streak, including last week's 41-14 win against the Bloom-Carroll Bulldogs. That brings their record to 12-0 as they look to add another notch to the win column. The Red Devils offense is the 16th-ranked offense in Division 4, scoring an average of 36.5 points per game over the course of the season. In their last 8 games, however, they haven't been quite as explosive as they've averaged 35.38 points per game. While their offense is solid, the defense deserves equal credit for the season's successes. Their 13.1 points allowed per game ranks 9th in the division and continues to get better week by week - in their last 3 games, they've given up just 6.67 points per game.
Prediction: Licking Valley to win (77.87% chance of victory)