A lot on the line when Harrison hosts Bellaire

There’s nothing like a Game 7 in sports to get the juices flowing.

But in prep football?

The seventh all-time meeting is on tap for Wagner Field in Cadiz Friday night between Harrison Central and Bellaire and the series is knotted at three apiece with the Big Reds having taken the last two showdowns.

There is certainly more riding on this game than just series bragging rights as both the Huskies and Big Reds are in the thick of playoff chases in their respective regions.

“Without a doubt, this is a must-win game for us,” said Bellaire head coach Jose Davis. “Our goal is to be playing in Week 11, which is what need for our program to take the next step, so this is most definitely a game we need.”

The Big Reds are currently ranked sixth in Division V, Region 17 and are trying to snap a two-game losing streak, which has included lopsided setbacks to once-beaten Indian Creek and unblemished St. Clairsville.

“St. Clairsville has one hell of a football team,” Davis said. “Are we disappointed in the outcome? Certainly, but you can just throw us in the same boat as everyone else who’s played them. The biggest thing our kids need to realize is that regardless of last week, we’ve got more games to play.”

The Huskies, meanwhile, were in that boat of lop-sided loser to the Red Devils, but regained their momentum with an impressive road victory at Edison. Harrison Central finds itself in sixth place in Division IV, Region 15.

“I don’t know what it is, but everytime we play (Bellaire), the games always turn into a dandy,” said Huskies’ head coach Justin Kropka. “I always like playing against Bellaire and it’s good for Ohio Valley football when Bellaire is good.”

Both teams come into the game with high-powered offenses, but as Kropka quickly pointed out, you probably won’t find two teams who go about their business anymore differently than the Big Reds and Huskies.

“I really don’t think you can find two more opposing styles than us and Bellaire,” Kropka said. “There are certainly more ways than one to skin a cat. Having said that, we have to be able to mix it up and take what Bellaire gives us. We’ve been able to both run and pass this season and we’ll need that again.”

The Huskies rely on the ground game first, and who can blame them with a running back like Maurtice Hython on the backfield?

Hython is coming off a 329-yard performance last week. For the season, he’s ran 130 times for 1,156 yards and 10 touchdowns.

“It’s all about Maurtice Hython,” Davis said when asked about Harrison’s offense. “They go as he goes. If we’re able to slow him down and bottle him up some, we’ve got a good chance to compete.”

If the Big Reds elect to stack the box, the gameplan shifts to senior quarterback Rashaen Mitchell, who’s passed for 853 yards and nine touchdowns. His receiving corp is led by senior Nick Pelegreen (9-145-2td) and Nate Olmstead (14-398-4td).

“Bellaire’s defense is much improved,” Kropka said. “They’ve made steady improvement and I think they’re going to continue to get better. I’ve seen the improvement they’ve made already with my own eyes since they played four straight home games. The thing about Bellaire is people don’t realize how young they are. This is by no means a senior-dominated team.”

The Big Reds’ offense, meanwhile, turns to the no-huddle, spread, pass-happy approach that’s worked well.

Junior quarterback Spencer Badia leads the way with 1,388 yards and 12 touchdowns. He’s completed 102-of-198 passes, but he’s been picked off eight times.

His bevy of receivers is led by senior Nick Patrone (32-477-3td), Quinton Crosby (18-306-2td), Kenny Hess (17-186-2td) and Hunter Westlake (12-234-3td).

The Big Reds have a solid running game with Nick Maffe leading the way.

“We have to mix up our looks on defense,” Kropka said. “Jose is a good enough play caller to where if you give him the same thing, he’s going to figure it out. We’ve have to limit the yards after the catch and the big plays. If they’re going to score touchdowns, we’d like to make them snap the ball 12 or so times to do it, which can be tough in high school football.”

The Huskies’ defense is led by Pelegreen at the linebacker spot. Tyler Rose and Niko Williams have also been solid on the defensive side.