The more things change, the more they stay the same. In one way, everyone expected these two teams to meet this week, but most people expected them to be playing for a title just like in the 2019 and 2021 seasons.
The season didn’t shake out that way. After Slippery Rock dropped their second straight to Indiana (Pa.), they knew the path was going to be difficult. On the flip side, a loss to Shepherd (Wv.) had the Golden Bears in a similar spot.
Now those two foes will meet to decide the champion of the conference, but The Rock and the Golden Bears will still meet on the gridiron. While it isn’t for the title, however, the stakes are still high as a playoff berth is on the line for both squads.
“We want to win that last regular season game for the seniors, and obviously, the goal is to compete for a national title,” Rock head coach, Shawn Lutz said. “In order to do that, we’ve got to win this one.”
Slippery Rock comes in sitting at No. 5 in the super region one rankings and Kutztown is No. 10 after they suffered a shocking loss to West Chester last week. A loss would likely mean the end of their season. But the same could be said for The Rock.
“We didn’t expect them to lose to West Chester, but they’re a senior oriented team, so they’re going to come in playing inspired football,” Lutz said. “They’re a more veteran team than we are right now, and it’ll be our biggest test.”
Just one year ago, California (Pa.) saw their season end after they suffered just one loss and The Rock snuck into the playoffs with two losses. But in the end, the matter will be decided on the field so that one team won’t have to worry about others.
The game will look to be a defensive battle, as both teams walk in allowing under 20 points a game. That will a key in this game according to Lutz.
“It’s a big test stopping the run against these guys because they’re good at doing that, I do really believe that if we stop their run game, we give ourselves a better chance to win this football game,” Lutz said.
Whichever offense breaks through first may very well be the one to control the game. However, the past two matchups have seen high scoring games.
The Rock’s defensive line has been one of the big stories of the season. Last year, The Rock went into the title game running off of fumes and they did not have Jeff Marx, who suffered an injury that held him out for the remainder of the season.
This time around, The Rock defense will come in healthier than they have been and in playoff mode. But Lutz knows that this game is going to be a battle and he’s more than ready for the fight.
“It’s going to be a war, man, it’s going to be like back in the days of the Greek era with guys going at each other in a slug fest and battling it out,” Lutz said. “We know we have to come packed with a lot of ammo.”