The Cloverdale and North Putnam football teams will face off Friday in the final Putnam County game of the 2005 regular season.
Both teams bring identical 4-4 overall records to the game, with the sectional tournament looming.
"I think all county games are important," North Putnam coach Dave Pasch said. "You want to have some momentum and you want to play well going into the tournament."
Both teams are coming off tough losses against stiff competition at the RCA Dome. North Putnam lost, 28-7, to Speeedway, while Cloverdale fell, 42-7, to Owen Valley.
"I thought the turnovers were the major factor," Pasch said. "But you've got to make plays too when the opportunities arise."
Cloverdale coach Jamie Steffy has seen some similar problems of late. In the first four games of the season, the Clovers only turned the ball over a combined three times. The last four games, Cloverdale has turned the ball over a combined 15 times.
"With our team right now it boils down to turnovers," Steffy said. "That's been the difference. We have been turning it over at an alarming rate."
Both teams have seen their share of ups and downs this season. North Putnam started the season, 2-0, before losing three straight games, while Cloverdale started the season, 3-1, before going 1-3 the last three weeks.
"When we turn it over, we put our defense in bad situations," Steffy said. "We've been doing that a lot the last few weeks."
The two teams come into this game with perhaps more recent history than any other two Putnam County teams. The past 10 seasons, the Clovers and Cougars have played 13 games, with Cloverdale leading the series 8-5. Cloverdale defeated North Putnam, 32-20 last season, in a high-scoring affair.
However, Steffy knows the Clovers are going to have to come out strong to win this year.
"I see a typical North Putnam team, they're very big, they're very fast and their very athletic," Steffy said. "This is probably the biggest and most athletic team in Putnam County."
Never overlooking his opponent, Pasch knows the Cougars will have to do things right in order to get the job done against the Clovers.
"You have to be a disciplined football team," he said. "They present a variety of problems."
Cloverdale's defense has been among the leaders in the West Central Conference all season long. Despite giving up 42 points to Owen Valley last week, the defense is still only allowing a respectable 20.4 points per game.
I think that right now our run defense has played pretty well all year," Steffy said. "Our pass defense is where we've struggled. We've replaced three starters."
The North Putnam defense has improved all season long. In North Putnam's first four games of the season, the Cougars allowed an average of 26 points per contest. In the last four games, North Putnam has only allowed 12.5 points per game.
Offensively, both teams pose threats, starting with their quarterbacks. Cloverdale is led by senior Chase Haltom under center, while North Putnam is led by Brayden Dahlstrom. Dahlstrom displayed a cannon last week at the RCA Dome, launching the ball 50 yards in the air to wide receiver Tyler Trent.
This is something Steffy is well aware of.
"Everything for them starts with Dahstrom. He's kind of the glue for the team," he said. "He can hurt you in a lot of ways. He's a good runner, he's a good thrower and he's a good punter."
Steffy said shutting down Dahlstrom could be one of the keys to the game Friday.
"I think there are two things that really stand out," he said. "We have to take care of the football. We can't let Dahlstrom have big yardage against us."
With the game coming on North Putnam's senior night, the Cougars will be looking for a big night from everyone.
"It will be our senior night," Pasch said. "So I think it's important that we play well for them."
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at North Putnam.