Both teams are trying to end losing streaks, with Wheeler looking to stop a six-game slide and Woodstock out to finish a three-game skid.
Another notable similarity is how close the teams have been to having different seasons.
Wheeler (2-6, 0-5) has lost each of its last three games by a touchdown or less — a combined 17 points. Woodstock (2-6, 1-4) has also dropped each of its last three contests by seven points or less — a combined 18 points. In fact, the Wolverines have been within seven points over each of their last five games.
Both coaches admit to being frustrated by the recent outcome of these close games, and they hope their players know they’ve proven that they are better than what their records show.
“It definitely has been frustrating to know that you’ve been so close to being a team that has the possibility of being 5-3 or even 6-2 at this time,” Woodstock coach Brent Budde said. “A couple of these losses have been last-second losses where we’ve had the lead late.
“In others, we battled back into it but couldn’t quite make up the difference. We just told the kids that you have to continue the process. That begins with a great week of practice. The kids came out and they’ve responded to that.”
Wheeler coach Mike Collins wishes his team’s fortunes in close games had been reversed as well.
“I really hate it for our kids,” he said. “They’ve played extremely hard our last three games. And really, our season in general can come down to about five or six plays. If we had five or six plays go the other way, we’d really be looking at making a run for a home playoff game.
“Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Hopefully, they’ll continue to play hard. We just have to believe we’ll get a break or two before the season is over with, and hopefully, that will start (tonight).”
The Wildcats’ motivation for turning their season around likely stems from the play of sophomore quarterback Ryles Kirkland.
Since taking over for dismissed starter Elijah Staley during Wheeler’s loss to Milton on Sept. 27, Kirkland has performed well, keeping the Wildcats in every contest.
“He’s worked extremely hard in the offseason since he’s been with us starting back in eighth grade,” Collins said. “It was a moment he had been getting groomed and prepared for. Obviously, it’s happened a little bit earlier than we would have liked for it to have happened. But the fact that he has been working at that position over the last few years has made it easier.”
Having played its last three games on the road, Woodstock is looking forward to tonight’s matchup at home against Wheeler.
“The kids are excited about being back at home,” Budde said. “The last time we were at home was a month ago. The last three losses have come on the road, so I think they’re excited to play on their home field.”