While they aren't playing in an actual state football playoff game, Waterloo and Mater Dei's regular-season finale has all the look and feel of a postseason contest.
Waterloo (4-4) has a whopping 43 playoff points (opponent wins), but the Bulldogs are in a must-win situation if they want to reach the postseason.
Mater Dei (5-3) has 35 playoff points and the tiebreaker cutoff for playoff qualifiers in recent years has been around 38 or a little higher.
A sixth victory gets the Knights into the playoffs automatically, but they could still qualify even with a loss.
"We're not getting in without a win, so this is a playoff game for us," said Waterloo coach Dan Rose, a good friend of Mater Dei coach Jim Stiebel. "You're putting your kids out on the field and you're hoping to outcoach each other. I think the pressure's on us a little bit more than it's on them."
Friday's game: Mater Dei (5-3) at Waterloo (4-4), 7 p.m.
"Dan and I are really good buddies and it's a great game for both of us and a great atmosphere," Stiebel said.
Bulldogs riding momentum: Waterloo needed two late touchdowns last week to escape with a 28-27 Mississippi Valley Conference win over Triad. Quarterback Zach Schaab threw a 45-yard TD pass to Reid Hoffmann early in the fourth quarter, then scored on a 1-yard run with 1:41 remaining.
Ryan Aycock's extra-point kick was the game-winner.
"It was a pretty emotional win," Rose said. "We like what we've done offensively, we've been able to put some points on the board. We've got to shore up a couple things defensively and make sure we can cover their deep passing game and account for their run and screen game."
Last meeting: Mater Dei won 13-6 last season, running for 220 yards.
Mater Dei still versatile: While Stiebel loves his team's running attack led by senior Jordan Ratermann, the Knights' balanced offense led by quarterback Sam Toennies and several top-flight receivers adds another level of worry for opposing defenses.
"We've proven to ourselves that if we just execute and take care of the game plan, we can play with anybody," Stiebel said.
Despite playing with a cast this season for a fractured wrist, Ratermann continues to pile up impressive numbers.
He had 70 yards rushing and five catches for 103 yards against Jacksonville's high-powered defense last week.
"He's been everything we expected and then some," Stiebel said. "He's the heart and soul of our offense as well as what he does on defense. We're not going to face a bigger, stronger team (than Jacksonville) unless we face them again in the playoffs."
Mater Dei players to watch: RB-LB Jordan Ratermann (148 carries 746 yards, 13 TDs; 15 catches, 200 yards, 1 TD; 48 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 Int.); QB Sam Toennies (98-195, 1,415 yards, 9 TDs, 6 Ints.; 78 carries, 339 yards, 7 TDs); WR-DB Nick Hitpas (38 catches, 547 yards, 5 TDs; 23 tackles, 2 Ints.); WR Ben Lampe (21 catches, 329 yards, 3 TDs); WR-DB Jared Thole (14 catches, 225 yards; 45 tackles, 2 Ints.)
Waterloo players to watch: RB Stephen Schad (142 carries, 632 yards, 4 TDs); RB Rick Wiegand (112 carries, 565 yards, 4 TDs; 16 catches, 253 yards); QB Zach Schaab (69-145, 1,071 yards, 7 TDs, 6 Ints.; 30 carries, 102 yards, 3 TDs); TE Reid Hoffmann (16 catches, 336 yards, 3 TDs); WR Austin Campbell (18 catches, 309 yards, 4 TDs); DB Colton Hearty (56 tackles, 3 Ints.); Kicker Ryan Aycock (6 FG, 20 XP)