The prep football playoffs start this week for Fairfield and Lakota East.
Both teams are fighting for spots in the Division I, Region 4 postseason with two weeks remaining in the regular season. Both likely need to win out to gain a spot.
So when Fairfield hosts East on Friday night at Fairfield Stadium, it’ll be a pretty big deal for both sides.
“We’ve changed our practice format. The whole demeanor of our practice is a playoff atmosphere,” said FHS coach Jason Krause, whose Indians are 5-3 overall and 3-2 in the Greater Miami Conference.
“I think there’s a lot of changes that are still going to be juggled around in our region. But I told our kids if we don’t win this one, we’re probably going to be turning in our stuff after Week 10.”
The Thunderhawks are 4-4, 3-2, and coming off a 21-17 triumph over Mason, a win that vaulted them back into playoff contention.
East coach Rick Haynes said the amount of number crunching he’s done in terms of Harbin computer points is “zero.” He just knows the Thunderhawks still have a lot to play for.
“Our kids are playing hard,” Haynes said. “They made great progress last week.”
Fairfield is eighth and East 10th in this week’s Harbin ratings. The top eight teams advance to the playoffs.
Only one Region 4 team (8-0 Colerain) has less than two losses. Only six of the 18 teams in the region have a winning record.
The Indians absorbed a 28-0 defeat at Colerain last week and will close at home against Hamilton next Friday. The Thunderhawks finish the regular season at Lakota West.
“I think our defense stepped up to the challenge most of the night,” Krause said of the Colerain loss. “Offensively, we struggled a little bit, especially in the second half. We struggled to get first downs and keep our defense off the field, and eventually things just kind of broke down a little bit.”
Fairfield will get another shot at a triple-option team Friday. East will run the ball with guys like Tyler VanFossen (110 carries, 560 yards, seven TDs), Tyler Glenn (54 carries, 281 yards), quarterback Dylan Fry (85 carries, 208 yards) and Silas Ingram (31 carries, 193 yards).
Glenn missed a large chunk of last season with a knee injury and just returned to action in mid-September. He gained 263 yards in Weeks 4-6, but has carried the ball only eight times for 18 yards in the last two games.
“He’s still hurt,” Haynes said. “We always plan on having him playing, but we’ll see how it goes this week.”
Krause praised VanFossen, a senior averaging 5.1 yards per carry.
“He hits the hole hard. He hits it fast,” Krause said. “East is very fundamentally sound. They bring toughness. They teach their kids to be tough and strong and physical, and they don’t take big chances and get guys out of position.”
The Indians have been a little banged up on the offensive line. Krause said that played a role in Fairfield’s lack of offense against Colerain, though he credited the Cardinals’ defense for an outstanding performance.
“I think they’re really good,” Haynes said of the Indians. “We’ve got to be able to move the ball because they’re really good on defense.”
Fairfield won last year’s meeting 27-7, but East leads the series 9-5.
What: Lakota East (4-4, 3-2 GMC) at Fairfield (5-3, 3-2 GMC), 7 p.m.
Where: Fairfield Stadium, Ohio 4 and Stadium Drive, Fairfield
Last meeting: Fairfield won 27-7 in 2015