Fredonia (4-1, 3-1) will look to capture its second straight Class C North title tonight when it squares off with Akron (2-3, 0-3), a team coming off three straight league losses, but a team Hillbillies' head coach Bob Ball is not taking lightly.
"They're very big across the line," Ball said. "They have a big receiver with really good size and their quarterback returns from last year."
The Tigers, who the Hillbillies beat 27-7 last season, started out strong this year, winning their first two games over Medina-Lyndonville and Section 5's University Prep, 34-22 and 50-12, respectively.
Then, Akron was hit with a trio of tough-luck losses, falling to Cleveland Hill (4-1, 3-1), 34-32, in overtime, JFK, 26-22, and Wilson, 32-29.
"They have quite a few kids from last year," Ball said. "They've lost three games by nine points, so they've had some tough luck, but they're a good football team."
In order to hand the Tigers their fourth straight loss, Ball knows his Hillbillies will have to keep quarterback Austen Mietz in check.
"It's starts with their quarterback (Austin Mietz)," Ball said. "They do more of a zone-read offense and try to catch you out of position. But it starts with (Mietz). He's a three-year starter and their scat back (Austen Lauricella). He's another one we have to keep in check."
Offensively, Ball understands that his team's success will hinder on whether or not it can maintain its blocks and whether or not the players can move their feet to create space for quarterback Weston Ley and runningback Zach Buckley to run through.
"We're going to have to take care of the football," Ball added. "Especially if it's raining. They're forecasting rain for (tonight). Defensively, we just have to keep continuing what we've been doing and do the things we've done lately that have made us successful."
Another key will be if Ley can continue to run the Fredonia offense with the same success he has since taking over under center three weeks ago.
"He's done a good job," Ball said of Ley. "He's taken things when they're there and he hasn't tried to force things.
"He's an athlete," Ball continued. "He's a competitor and he's not affraid to be put in pressure situations where he has to perform. We're certainly not afraid to put it in the air with him as well."
Despite Ley's size - the junior is only 5-foot-9 inches, and weighs 160 pounds - Ball is confident Ley has what it takes to carry the offensive load for as long as Fredonia is still playing football this season.
"He did a lot of lifting in the offseason, especially over the summer and we have Zach Buckley, Cody Smith and Tyler Cassidy who we can go to," Ball said. "We have other guys we can go to if we need to. Early in the season, (Ley) was cramping up, but I noticed, especially this last week, that he got stronger as the game went on.
"He reminds me a lot of Eric Ippolito of four or five years ago," Ball added of Ley. "The more carries he got, the stronger he got."
Defensively, the Hillbillies have been able to use their speed and athletic ability to keep teams in check, something they will have to do against a team that Ball noted was much bigger than his own.
"That's where it starts," Ball said. "Especially against tough teams, you have to play good defense. We're quick to the ball, we're fast and as long as we don't cheat on the play, I don't see any reason why we can't continue to be good on defense."
As far as having the chance to win the division tonight, it is something that Ball, his coaches and players are aware of, but they are not letting it get in the way of what they need to do to beat a tough Akron team.
"We haven't really mentioned it too much," Ball said. "I think we all know that if we win the game, we're division champions. We talked this week that our goal is to win the next game. And right now, we want to win a game against a good football team this week.
"I think we're going to be up to the challenge," Ball concluded.