A shot for at least a possible share of the Midwestern Athletic Conference title will be on the line tomorrow night in Beaver Falls.
But that's not the only trophy New Brighton and Beaver Falls hope to capture.
Bragging rights as well as the historic Little Brown Jug are up for grabs when these two cross-river rivals meet at 7 p.m. at Geneva College's Reeves Field.
A decades-old tradition in Beaver County, the neighboring communities have long played for the trophy, which actually was an old jug filled with water from the Beaver River.
"This is a big game for two communities separated by a river," Beaver Falls coach Ryan Matsook said. "You play this game for the Little Brown Jug and its bragging rights. It's a big thing in Beaver County."
Beaver Falls has beaten New Brighton the past six consecutive years, including a narrow 34-31 decision last season. The Lions last topped the Tigers in 2006 with a 12-7 victory.
"It makes it extra special this year because both teams have been competitive," Matsook said. "We mounted a furious comeback last year, so I'm sure they're champing at the bit to play us again. This is a whole new challenge, so we have to make sure we're up for it."
Ranked No. 2 in Class AA by the Post-Gazette, Beaver Falls (5-0, 4-0) sits at the top of the MAC standings with top-ranked Aliquippa (5-0, 3-0) and ahead of New Brighton (4-1, 3-1). A New Brighton victory this week along with a win by Beaver Falls when the Tigers play the Quips on Oct. 18 could present a three-way tie for first place, barring any major upsets.
"Right now we need to focus on the game at hand," New Brighton coach Joe Greco said. "We'll let everyone else worry about other stuff. We need to take one game at a time and continue with our approach."
The Lions, who lost to Aliquippa two weeks ago, are coming off a 42-7 win against Freedom. Quarterback Payton Fath threw for 157 yards and four touchdowns against the Bulldogs. Craig Thompson was targeted for all four scores and finished with six receptions for 124 yards.
Fath, a junior, made his first start last week. He took over the starting role after senior quarterback Gabe Greco, a son of the coach, sustained a left ankle injury during the first quarter against Aliquippa.
"They run a no-huddle, spread offense," Matsook said. "The first time we saw that was against Beaver a few weeks ago. We didn't do a good job defensively against them, but even on top of the penalties and mistakes we were able to mount a comeback.
"It's a potent attack, even without having [Gabe] Greco. Except for the exception against Aliquippa, they have proven they can run the ball well."
Beaver Falls remained undefeated following a 54-15 non-conference win last week against Keystone Oaks. The Tigers are outscoring opponents by an average of 42.2-11.0.
"Obviously, they're very talented," Greco said. "They have good football players with a lot of size. Just when you think you can zero in on someone, they have another guy who starts doing things. This is a talented football team."
Kahlil Caracter, a transfer from Freedom, made his debut last week after being ruled eligible by the WPIAL and paced Beaver Falls by rushing for three touchdowns and 86 yards on five carries. Marcus Cleckley also scored a pair of touchdowns against Keystone Oaks.
"They run a terrific play-action game," Greco said. "They run and block well. They have runners who really run well and a good, experienced quarterback [Dan Stratton].
"Defensively, they haven't given up much and basically have been playing shut-down defense."
Matsook is sticking with a similar game plan and continues to preach fundamentals and stressed mistake-free football to his players this week.
"We have to minimize our mistakes and penalties," Matsook said. "It's tough enough to beat a good team when you're not beating yourself. If we fix our mistakes and control the things we're supposed to control then we're a pretty good team."
• Game: New Brighton (4-1, 3-1) vs. Beaver Falls (5-0, 4-0).
• When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
• Where: Geneva College's Reeves Field.
• Skinny: If New Brighton wants to remain in contention for MAC title, a win in this one is a must.