The countdown clock for the WPIAL football playoffs already has begun to tick.
It might still be early in the season, but teams are quickly noticing how each conference game will likely play a crucial factor in the possible postseason landscape.
The Black Hills Conference is no exception, and it also presents quite an interesting matchup tomorrow night when Brentwood (1-0, 0-0) travels to Washington County to face Fort Cherry (1-0, 1-0).
"These are the games you want to win if you want to make the playoffs," Brentwood coach Kevin Kissel said. "You only play so many games a year, so you have to be excited every week, especially with conference games."
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Jim Garry Stadium.
"We're kind of getting used to a tough conference schedule," Fort Cherry coach Jim Shiel said. "These games don't get any easier.
"From the top to the bottom of the standings, I really believe every game is going to be a dogfight."
The yearly meeting between Brentwood and Fort Cherry also has become somewhat of a rivalry.
"Over the years, with us moving around in conferences we've still played them and it has become a nice rivalry," Kissel said. "It's going to be a big conference game."
Brentwood beat Fort Cherry four consecutive times beginning with a first-round WPIAL playoff win in 2009 and followed up with a pair of overtime victories the next two seasons. The Rangers, however, snapped Brentwood's streak last year with a 35-14 victory.
"It has definitely been a pretty nice rivalry," Shiel said. "I know we've had quite a few games go down to the wire and even a couple ended in overtime.
"We've been on the short end, but last year we finally broke the ice. We've always played them tight, so we're looking forward to it. It's going to be a fun and challenging game, that's for sure."
Fort Cherry is coming off a thrilling 27-26 Black Hills victory against Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. Brian Carnegie recovered a fumble for the Rangers and returned it for a touchdown to tie the game in the closing seconds of regulation.
Nick Rogers then booted the game-winning extra-point to seal the win.
"We're very young, especially at the skill positions," Shiel said. "We had a lot of sophomores make some big plays in that game, but we also made a lot of mistakes. At the same time, our kids never quit.
"When our backs were against the wall, they stepped up and made the plays."
Running back Nick Cook led Fort Cherry by rushing for a pair of touchdowns against the Chargers.
"Fort Cherry always has tough kids who play tough football," Kissel said. "We've seen them in the past and know they're well-coached, so we're going to have our hands full."
Brentwood enters this game following a 42-28 non-conference win against Vincentian Academy. The Spartans rallied from a 14-0 first-quarter deficit.
"We played really well at times, and there were times we didn't play well," Kissel said. "That all comes with the first game, but overall we're playing some pretty young kids.
"There were some nice surprises with a few big plays. If we can get plays like that all the time, it would be a big help to us."
Brentwood quarterback Connor McWilliams turned in an impressive performance against the Royals by throwing for more than 300 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for a score.
Tayron Kyser caught three passes from McWilliams, gathered 116 receiving yards and scored three touchdowns. He also returned an interception for an 82-yard touchdown.
"They're always a well-coached and disciplined team," Shiel said. "Normally, they're big up front and have a powerful running game. They also have a very good quarterback."
Shiel and Kissel both acknowledged how early-season injuries have begun to affect their respective teams.
"We have to stay healthy," Kissel said. "We're pretty banged up already. It's tough to lose guys at any level, but especially in Class A.
"We're hoping our kids stay healthy and we're counting on some guys to really come through for us."
Shiel also noted that his team needs to stay healthy as well as learn from its Week 1 mistakes.
"On the physical side, we should be OK," he said. "We're inexperienced, so we have to grow up rather quickly.
"We're hoping that watching film from last week's game really helps. We're going to study our first game and talk about what we need to play better.
"Sometimes watching film can be a great teacher."
ABOUT THE GAME
n Game: Brentwood vs. Fort Cherry.
n When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
n Where: Fort Cherry's Jim Garry Stadium.
n Skinny: After winning their openers, both teams want to make an early-season Black Hills Conference statement.