Battle of Belmont highlights final week of regular season - News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Battle of Belmont highlights final week of regular season

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GIRARD, Ohio -

The "Battle of Belmont" has significant importance when Liberty plays their archrival Friday night at Arrowhead Stadium in Girard.  

Both are 4-0 in the All American Conference Blue Tier and the winner not only wins the league championship but also solidifies their playoff position.

"This game is always special, and with everything on the line when these two programs get together, you're always in for a good game," said Indians Coach Pat Pearson, whose team is undefeated at 9-0.

Liberty Coach Chet Allen agrees. "It doesn't get any better than this. A lot of stuff is riding on this game. so it's going to be a fun one."

The Indians are fifth in the computer rankings in their region and a win over their rival would nearly guarantee them a playoff spot.  A win by the Leopards could be enough to vault them into the top eight from 
their current 13th position.

Combined, the teams are 17-1.  The Leopards have won eight in a row after losing to Struthers in the opener.  Both teams feature prolific offenses led by quarterbacks Mark Waid of Girard and Dra Rushton of Liberty.

"This is not a Dra versus Waid game," said a laughing Rushton who added, "He has a great team and I feel we have a great team, so whoever plays the best will win."

Waid, the junior quarterback, agrees. "I can't do anything on that field without my offensive line, my receivers, the defense. Their performing well and that's really pushing me."

Everyone agrees, although the playoffs officially begin next week, they begin for these teams Friday. 

"The playoffs begin Friday, because if we don't win then were not in," said Allen.  "This may be bigger than a playoff game," said Waid. "This rivalry is back and forth. It's been there forever and this is huge for all of us."

Kickoff from Arrowhead Stadium is 7:00 pm Friday.


OFFICER LEO HONORED:  The Girard football team will wear a JL-234 decal on their helmets in honor of slain police office Justin Leo.  Police officers from both jurisdictions are expected to part of the coin toss where Office Leo will be an honorary captain.

STREAKING STREAKS: Girard has won the last two games with Liberty, 2016 and 2015. Prior to that, the Leopards won three straight in 2014, 2013 and 2012.  And from 20007-2011 the Indians won six straight.

PLAYOFF HOPES: Six area teams have clinched a playoff spot. Canfield, Poland, Lakeview, South Range, Lisbon, and Valley Christian are in no matter what happens week 10.  Five other teams are in with a win.  They include Girard, Struthers, Mooney, Western Reserve and Columbiana.  Eleven other schools need to win and then get help to make the playoffs. They include Fitch, Boardman, Beaver Local, Crestview, Springfield, East Palestine, McDonald, Liberty, Warren JFK, Mathews, and Lowellville.

WINNING STREAK SNAPPED:  With their loss last week, Hubbard's 18 year run of having a winning record is over.  The Eagles are 4-5 and play at East Friday.  The current longest consecutive winning record streak belongs to Western Reserve with 12 straight years with a winning record, followed by Lakeview with 11 straight years.

PRESEASON PREDICTIONS: Heading into the final week of the regular season I am within one game of 22 schools of having the exact record I predicted in August.

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