STEUBENVILLE - Mutual respect is a common theme this week as Licking Valley and Big Red prepare for their Ohio Division IV, Region 13 quarterfinal showdown Friday.
"Looking at them on film, Big Red is by far the best team we have played this year," said Randy Baughman, head coach of the 8-2 and top-seeded Panthers. "We've had some success but we certainly have not done the things Steubenville has. I don't think anybody else can match what Big Red has done when it comes to the playoffs."
Big Red's Reno Saccoccia, whose club is 6-4 and seeded eighth, called Licking Valley "a very good football team."
"Licking Valley is very well-coached, well-disciplined and their players play football the way it's meant to be played," he added. "They are a senior dominated team and their record along with the records of their opponents shows it. That's why they are number one in the region."
Kickoff for the second ever meeting between the schools (Big Red earned a 33-7 victory on its way to a Division III championship) is set for 7:30 p.m. at Randy Baughman Stadium.
Big Red is making its 13th consecutive trip to the Ohio playoffs and 26th overall.
Steubenville's post-season total is tied for fifth best in Ohio history with Youngstown Mooney. Newark Catholic leads with 33. Big Red's all-time playoff record is 47-22.
Licking Valley is in the playoffs for the 14th time overall and first since 2010. The Panthers are 26-13 in the post-season.
"We've been to a few, but we don't have nearly as many playoff appearances or playoff success as Big Red," Baughman, who has been the Licking Valley head coach since 1982, noted.
In other Region 13 action, Indian Valley, which finished second, will entertain Bloom Carroll, John Glenn will visit number three Philo and Maysville, the fourth seed, hosts Bexley.
"At this point in the year, seeding doesn't mean a lot," Baughman stated. "Every team in there is good now. We don't get too excited over the fact we are the one seed. We've done all right this season. We did let a couple of games slip away that we should have had. We battle. We're not real talented but we have a nice group of kids that work hard."
The Panthers lost their regular season finale to Granville 30-23. Philo also defeated Licking Valley earlier in the season. Baughman's crew owns victories over Tri-Valley, which finished 8-2 and made the Division III playoffs, and Licking Heights, which went 9-1 and qualified for the Division II postseason.
"They don't have any real stars, but they have five or six kids that get the football and do a good job with it," Saccoccia stated. "Both their offensive and defensive lines are solid. They don't make mistakes.
"Defensively, they are gap sound and offensively, they have a nice scheme. They can run it and they can throw it. They are a well-balanced team."
The Licking Valley offense averages 191 yards per game on the ground and another 191 through the air. The Panthers score 36 points per game while allowing 15.