Longtime Cahokia Conference rivals Freeburg and Dupo collide on Friday hoping to keep their state football playoff hopes alive.
Friday's game: Freeburg (4-3) at Dupo (3-4), 7 p.m.
"We're in the same position we were last year," Freeburg coach Ronnie Stuart said. "We were 4-3 and got beat by Dupo in overtime, then went to Salem and got our butts kicked there. It's going to be an interesting game, we both want to run the football."
Twist of fate: Both teams have lost to the same conference foes -- Columbia, Central and Carlyle -- while beating Wesclin and Red Bud.
Last meeting: Dupo won 18-12 in overtime at Freeburg last year on a 5-yard touchdown run by Kyle Lachance, his third TD of the game.
Dupo coach Tim Nelson said the Tigers' top priority will be avoiding turnovers. They had eight last week in a 42-14 loss to Carlyle and nine in the season-opening loss to Sparta.
"It's a big game for us, but the biggest thing is we need to learn how to take care of the ball," Nelson said. "In our losses we're averaging around seven turnovers. We have to sustain drives and we have to play well defensively."
What to watch for: Both teams like to pound it out on the ground with significant running games.
Freeburg's top running threats are Keegan Baxmeyer and Robby Vall and both are also excellent defensive players.
"We would like to tell them we could put them on one side of the ball, but we don't have much depth," said Stuart, who cautioned his team against overlooking the Tigers. "I really believe their record does not show how good of a team they are. Offensively they're really good, they do some things really well that can hinder defenses."
Dupo's option offense has three running choices in quarterback Brett Aldridge and running backs Tyler Barnes and Lachance.
"Offensively we've moved the ball well all year," Nelson said. "The problem comes when we can't sustain a drive or something bad happens."
Freeburg's defense held unbeaten and state-ranked Columbia to its second-lowest point total all season (21) .
"Freeburg's a big, physical team," Nelson said. "They're very good defensively and it's going to be a challenge, but we've got some really tough kids and we're going to present problems.
"We're going to come out attacking and give it our best effort."
Dupo could be missing some starters because of possible disciplinary action.
Freeburg players to watch: RB-DB Keegan Baxmeyer (43 carries, 308 yards, 4 TDs; 10 catches, 164 yards, 1 TD; 25 tackles, 5 sacks, 2 int.); RB-LB Robby Vall (53 carries, 319 yards, 4 TDs; 15 catches, 122 yards, 2 TDs; 59 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 Int.); QB Joseph Wolf (47-of-76, 543 yards, 5 TDs, 2 Ints.); RB-LB Michael Smith (38 carries, 106 yards, 8 TDs; 50 tackles, 1 sack).
Dupo players to watch: QB Brett Aldridge (36-87, 590 yards, 4 TDs, 4 Ints.; 63 carries, 449 yards, 9 TDs); RB Tyler Barnes (100 carries, 686 yards, 9 TDs; 17 catches, 143 yards); RB Kyle Lachance (55 catches, 598 yards, 5 TDs); DL Levi Hall (47 tackles, 10 sacks); LB Mike Williamson (61 tackles).
Fun facts: Dupo had won three straight before losing 42-14 to Carlyle last week, a team Freeburg lost to 7-0 in Week 2. Freeburg has also won three of four. Dupo has Pinckneyville (4-3) in the regular-season finale while Freeburg plays Salem (1-6).