Two weeks ago, the Onaway football team's trip to Central Lake didn't go well after the Cardinals were handed a 45-14 loss by the Trojans.
Now Onaway is hoping its return trip to Central Lake ends a little differently as the two Ski Valley Conference rivals will meet at 7 p.m. tonight in a predistrict playoff game.
While coaches from both teams admit its a bit strange to play a conference opponent twice in a three-week span, there's also a level of ease that comes with it.
"It makes it a little easier. We know what they're going to do," Onaway coach Brian Whitsitt said. "I feel more comfortable playing a team we played a few weeks ago rather than someone unknown."
A win tonight would keep Onaway's season going, but it would also stop a three-game losing streak. After a 5-1 start, the Cardinals (5-4) lost their final three games, but were able to secure an at-large playoff spot.
It's rejuventated the Cardinals, who have a lot of offensive firepower at their disposal. One of those weapons, senior running back Jason Sigsby missed the first meeting of the two squads, but returns for tonight's game and Onaway will look to him to kickstart a running game that's stalled in the last few weeks. The Cardinals gained just 73 rushing yards against the Trojans with Sigsby out of the lineup.
Sigsby has 645 yards on 91 carries and six touchdowns for the season.
Central Lake is riding high after winning its final four games and though the Trojans (6-3) have already beaten Onaway, head coach Rob Heecke knows the Cardinals won't be a slouch.
"They've got nothing to lose and they have all the components to win," Heecke said. "Defensively they have a lot of playmakers. They can hurt you quick and they can hurt you in a lot of ways."
While Whitsitt likes to split his play calling even between running and passing, the Trojans have relied on their running game all season and will do it again tonight. Senior fullback Taylor Sutherland and junior running back William Brockman give Central Lake a potent 1-2 punch in the backfield. Brockman has rushed for more than 1,000 yards and 19 touchdowns in the Trojans' T-style offense and torched Onaway for 195 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns two weeks ago.
Heecke said his team's plan is simple: Central Lake will run the ball and if the Trojans do that well, they'll win.
"We try to do a little bit and do it really well," Heecke said. "We'll run the ball right at you and if you stop us, you're probably going to beat us."
Onaway will counting on its defense, which includes all-conference selections Chris Cleaver, Chae Whitsitt and Justin Gedda to slow the Trojans down.
In addition to Sigsby, Onaway will also look to junior quarterback Matt Tollini to get the ball to his receivers. Tollini was a first team all-conference pick after throwing for 1538 yards and 14 touchdowns. He's done a good job this season getting the ball to top receivers Carlos Bautista and Tommy Auger, who've combined for 850 yards and eight touchdowns.
Since the loss two week ago, Whitsitt said the Cardinals have made some changes in hopes of eliminating the possibility of surprise plays from the Trojans.
Whitsitt said he wasn't happy with the way the Cardinals ended the regular season, especially after a 30-2 loss to Pickford last week. But a win puts Onaway back in the win column and into a second week of the postseason.
"I'm happy that we made the playoffs, but disappointed with the way we ended the regular season," he said. "One way to rectify that is to win in the playoffs."