Rarely does a Week 4 football game carry the weight of Friday's Mississippi Valley Conference showdown between Highland and Jerseyville.
Highland (3-0) is ranked 10th in the state in Class 5A and Jerseyville (2-1) is the defending MVC champ hoping to add another title.
"They've definitely had our number as far as that conference championship," Highland coach Jimmy Warnecke. "I like having it at home, I'll tell you that."
Both teams average more than 46 points per game, with one common opponent. Averaging 253 yards passing, Jerseyville beat Mount Zion 66-22. Highland --averaging 360 yards rushing -- beat the same team 52-28.
"There's no question it's going to be a playoff atmosphere," Jerseyville coach Dave Jacobs said. "There's a lot at stake, the winner of our game will be at the top of the conference and be the team to beat. We're hoping that's us."
Friday's game: Jerseyville at Highland, 7 p.m.
Last meeting: Jerseyville won 33-22 in 2012 on the way to the MVC championship and won 34-7 the year before. Highland beat the Panthers three straight between 2008-10.
What to watch for: Highland will want to slow Jerseyville's precision passing attack by slugging things out on the ground behind a massive offensive line anchored by Nebraska recruit Tanner Farmer.
"I feel very strongly about what we've got up front," Warnecke said, although he cautioned his starters have yet to play more than 2 1/2 quarters in any game.
Jerseyville has a new starter at quarterback in Billy Ritchey, but returns an all-state running back in Austin Lolos and four talented receivers led by Christian Kimble.
Jerseyville lost all-state quarterback Mitch Kimble to Syracuse.
"Last year's stuff went around Mitch and this year our stuff's going around everybody, which keeps everybody excited," Jacobs said. "Highland's loaded. I've been coaching 27 years and they've got maybe the best offensive line I've seen and they've got some really good skill kids, too."
This game features the area's rushing leader (Lolos), the No. 2 and No. 3 quarterbacks in passing yards (Ritchey and Highland's Mack Waldman) and the area's scoring and total yardage leader (Highland receiver Gage Geiger).
It also includes the top three in total yardage and the top three rushers.
"They've got some playmakers," Warnecke said. "They like to sling the ball around and they've got an all-state running back in Austin Lolos that you have to honor, too. That's what makes their passing game so good."
Highland key players: OT Tanner Farmer; RB Gage Geiger (36 carries, 358 yards, 8 TDs, 2 catches, 108 yards, 1 TD); RB Andrew Winning (29 carries, 393 yards, 5 TDs); QB Mack Waldman (27-of-38, 584 yards, 5 TDs, 1 int.); WR Logan Geiger (6 catches, 178 yards, 3 TDs); LB Blake Perfetti (16 tackles); OL-DE Nick Czar (14 tackles).
Jerseyville key players: RB Austin Lolos (58 carries, 422 yards, 3 TDs); WR Christian Kimble (5 catches, 105 yards, 4 TDs); WR Jacob Varble (17 catches, 282 yards, 2 TDs); QB Billy Ritchey (50-89, 760 yards, 12 TDs, 1 int.); safety Ethan Ward (23 tackles); WR-DB Kyle Obertino (14 catches, 167 yards, 3 TDs; 19 tackles, 1 int.).
Fun facts: Jerseyville's loss is to Decatur MacArthur...As players at Highland, Jimmy Warnecke, his brother, Tim, and cousin Dusty Keeven all lost to Jerseyville in games that carried MVC championship implications.