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Title on the line for Monessen

| Thursday, Oct. 25, 2001

MONESSEN - There is an old adage that goes "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

Nothing could be truer for Friday's collision in Carmichaels.

Monessen (8-0, 7-0) will take on the Mikes (7-1, 6-1) with the Tri-County South title on the line.

"This is a big game, no question," said first-year Monessen coach Joe Fischer. "It should be a good battle. Carmichaels plays the type of football that we will see in the playoffs, so we should be more comfortable with it. But we have to play this game first."

"This will be a tough game," said Carmichaels coach John Menhart. "Monessen is head and shoulders above everyone else in the conference. I have always respected Monessen, and coach Fischer has done a great job. He runs a class operation."

This year's game eerily resembles last year's contest at Monessen's Memorial Stadium, just with a different twist.

Going into tomorrow night's contest, the visiting Hounds are undefeated and have the number one ranked scoring defense in the entire WPIAL. For the season, the Hounds defense has yielded only 27 points while posting four shutouts.

Last year, it was Carmichaels who came to Monessen undefeated with the top-ranked scoring defense in the WPIAL. The Mikes had allowed only 20 points.

A year ago, Monessen's lone setback prior to the showdown was a two-point defeat (20-18) at Mapletown. This season the Mikes' loss was a two-pointer (15-13) at Mapletown in the season opener.

As it was with Carmichaels last year, the visiting Hounds can clinch sole possession of the Tri-County South title with a win. The loss would put Carmichaels into the third- place spot going into the playoffs.

But if the Mikes win, then they will force a tie with the Hounds for the conference title. Toss into that a possible Mapletown win at California and there could be a three-way tie for first place.

If the Mikes win and the Maples lose, then the Mikes would get the first-place seed in the playoffs, leaving the Hounds with the second-place seed.

The key ingredient in Friday night's game could be which team can play to their strength. The Hounds will feature incredible speed while the Mikes will counter with size up front in the battle of the trenches.

"We are going to go with what brought us to the dance," said Fischer of his team's speed. "Our speed is our strength, and we will try to take advantage of it."

Menhart knows all about Monessen's speed.

"They are very quick," said Menhart. "Our kids will have to adjust to their speed, if we can adjust. But we have fast kids, too."

Both Monessen and Carmichaels use a balanced attack on the ground. The Hounds have rushed for 2,346 yards on 226 carries for an average of 8.7 yards per carry. Freshman Quinton Martin leads the Hounds with 537 yards on 62 carries.

Carmichaels is led by Justin Mattei, Coby Giles and Bobby Hathaway on the ground. They have combined for 2,201 yards. For the year, the Mikes have rushed for more than 2,700 yards.

Fischer made note of the Mikes' offensive line.

"The battle up front will be a big challenge for our linemen," said Fischer. "I am really excited to see how our line plays."

Carmichaels heads into the game without losing at home since 1997. Their opponent that night• Monessen.

The numerous story lines for this game have been laid out. The conference title is on the line. Home field advantage in the first round is also on the line. This game has all the makings of a great sequel to last year's classic.

All that is left for the Hounds and Mikes to do is settle it on the field.

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