EDWARDSVILLE — It's pretty clear-cut for the Belleville East Lancers: Win or their season is over.
That doesn't make it any easier as the Lancers must knock off the undefeated and state-ranked Edwardsville Tigers in their regular-season finale to qualify for the playoffs.
"I think we played our best game Saturday, and we'll have to play even better to play with Edwardsville," said East coach Tim Funk, whose team is coming off a 17-14, double-overtime win over O'Fallon last Saturday.
"They can run it. They can throw it. Their line is phenomenal. And, I tell our coaches that it seems like they are playing defense with 15 guys. That's how good they are. I don't know how we can pull it off, but it's going to be fun trying."
The Tigers, who are ranked No. 4 in Class 7A, have already clinched their first Southwestern Conference championship since 2005 when they went 12-1 and advanced to the semifinals of the Class 7A playoffs.
Still, the Tigers have plenty of motivation. It's Senior Night, they're looking to cap off an unbeaten regular season and they're trying to assure themselves of a low seed in the playoffs.
"For playoff seeding, it's huge," Edwardsville coach Matt Martin said. "I don't know if we'll get a No. 1 seed, but I know if we win out, it puts us in a good position."
Friday's game: Belleville East (4-4, 3-3) at Edwardsville (8-0, 6-0), 7 p.m. at the Edwardsville Sports Complex
Last meeting: Edwardsville shut out Belleville East 24-0 last year as Sam Mulford rushed for 89 yards and two touchdowns.
Belleville East coach Tim Funk: "Last year, they made it to the quarterfinals before losing to Lincoln-Way East, and I think they'll be knocking on the door again this year. That's how good I think they are. Shoot, there's not anybody in the entire area that is going to pick us to win that game. That's fine with us. We're going to do the same things anyway. On paper, they are much better than us, there is no doubt about that."
Edwardsville coach Matt Martin: "I know they are big and physical and they have their all-conference running back (Brandon Mason) back. I think it'll be the most physical game that we've faced all year. There are certain plays that you know when you are playing against Belleville East ... I don't know if you can stop it, but at least have some success against it. It all involves running the ball."
East players to watch: RB Brandon Mason (111 carries for 535 yards and 5 TDs); RB-DB Demarius Ward (78 carries for 382 yards and 3 TDs; 35 tackles, 2 Ints.); LB Markee Thompson (80 tackles); DL Darrin McDaniel (5 sacks).
Edwardsville players to watch: QB Dan Marinko (124 of 188 passing for 1,105 yards with 24 TDs and 4 Ints.; 38 carries for 382 yards and 9 TDs); WR Darius Crochrell (40 catches for 615 yards and 11 touchdowns); WR Isaiah Michl (28 catches for 582 yards and 7 TDs); MLB Zac Rujawitz (54 tackles, two sacks); OLB Cameron Throneberry (5 sacks); CB Brian Crowe (five Ints.)
Notes: The series is tied at 5-5 over the last 10 years. The Tigers won the last two meetings, while the Lancers had a four-game winning streak prior to that. ... The Tigers lead the SWC in scoring with an average with 44.9 points per game and fewest points allowed with an average of 9.4 points per game.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.