Friday’s game in Afton is an important game for both Murray and for East Union.
It’s important for Murray in that a win would keep the Mustangs at one district loss heading into next week’s game against Lamoni, which also currently has one district loss.
But, it’s even bigger for East Union, which needs a win in order to keep any hopes of playing in the playoffs alive.
The Eagles enter Friday’s game with a 1-4 record in Eight-Man District 6, and are hanging onto playoff hopes by one final thread.
But, a win over Murray won’t be enough for the Eagles. Not only do they need to beat the Mustangs, but they also need a little help from other district teams.
East Union will need Colo-Nesco to defeat Grandview Park Baptist and Lamoni to beat Mormon Trail.
Those scenarios, coupled with an East Union win, would create a logjam in District 6.
That would make Colo-Nesco 3-4 in the district, with Grandview Park Baptist, Mormon Trail and East Union all sitting at 2-4, with one game left for each of those three teams. Then, there would still be work left to do for the Eagles in week nine.
East Union knows exactly what it will need to do in order to beat Murray — stop the Mustangs’ potent running game and prevent any big plays from the Murray special teams unit.
Murray’s Andrew Rider has surpassed the 1,000-yard mark rushing this season and has scored 22 rushing touchdowns. Seth Nerness has added 563 rushing yards and 10 scores.
Rider has also returned four punts for touchdowns and one kickoff for a touchdown. Add to that four interception returns for touchdowns this year.
East Union will look to establish its run game early. Mike Ward is the leading rusher at 580 yards and 10 touchdowns, while Trevor Barnett has 553 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
In Eight-Man District 8, the four playoff teams have been decided.
Southwest Valley has already sewn up its playoff spot. Now, the only questions are what seed will the Timberwolves earn, and will they earn a home playoff game?
The Timberwolves travel to district leader Fremont-Mills (5-0) on Friday. A win by Southwest Valley would move the Timberwolves into a tie at 5-1 with Fremont-Mills. Sidney is 4-1 in district play and plays Stanton, before closing the district season next week at 4-2 CAM.
A three-way tie among those teams would come down to the point differential tiebreaker.
Sophomore quarterback Jason Rusten has thrown for 724 yards and 15 touchdowns with just one interception for the Fremont-Mills Knights.
Junior Spencer Phillips is the leading rusher with 1,072 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 8.1 yards per carry.
Southwest Valley will need to get its four-headed rushing attack back on track after struggling against top-rated Exira/EHK last week.
Zach Barton is the leader of that quartet with 749 yards and 10 touchdowns. Tyler Bissell has 474 yards with 10 touchdowns, followed by Jordan Stuart with 463 yards and nine touchdowns and Gunnar McCuen with 418 yards and three touchdowns.
Lenox, meanwhile, has been eliminated from playoff contention and hosts Melcher-Dallas in non-district play after having a bye week last week.
Melcher-Dallas comes in at 4-3 overall and 3-3 in District 5. Lenox sits at 4-3 overall and 3-3 in District 8.
For Melcher-Dallas, Alex Mitchell has thrown for 788 yards and 15 touchdowns, but has been picked off eight times.
Jacob Hoch has 718 rushing yards and eight touchdowns to lead the Saints.
Lenox is led by Dustyn Rauch’s 816 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Quarterback Dustin Gordon has 295 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.
Gordon also has 430 passing yards with eight touchdowns. Caleb Lange is the leading receiver for the Tigers with 183 yards and three touchdowns.