Winner goes to the Class 3A playoffs.

Loser goes to a consolation game in Week 9.

That’s what’s at stake in Friday night’s matchup between the Parsons Vikings and Cherryvale Chargers in Montgomery County.

For a pair of first-year head coaches — Jeff Schibi for Parsons and Travis Young for Cherryvale — a postseason berth serves as an emblem of progress for their program.

“We have laid out all of the circumstances for the kids and what they’re playing for,” Schibi said. “We’re going into every football game preparing to win. We’ll do the same this week. But the kids have to understand that the playoffs start this week for us. It’s win or go home. Let’s be honest, nobody wants to play that Week 9 game where it’s meaningless.” 

“There’s a ton at stake and it’s a do-or-die week,” Young added. “It’s great competition and a really exciting week knowing we have a chance to make the playoffs.” 

Parsons is coming off a 38-20 loss to district-leading Columbus. For three-and-a-half quarters, the Vikings went toe-to-toe with the Titans before the levee finally gave way.

“Our kids made plays,” Schibi said. “Tanner Barcus had a huge game. Ethan Houk threw the ball really well. Towards the end of the game, Columbus finally wore us down and unleashed Gabe Martin on us. We still gave up way too many rushing yards in totality of the game. But our kids are playing hard.” 

As for Cherryvale, last week saw a blowout, shutout loss at the hands of the Galena Bulldogs.

While Galena is a grind-it-out-in-the-trenches squad, the Vikings provide a different dynamic to scheme against.

“They’re really fast,” Young said. “Houk is really solid and makes good throws. On defense, we’ve got to slow down their pass game.” 

The Chargers will be bolstered by the return of quarterback Jackson Knight, who was injured in a win over Baxter Springs and missed last week’s loss against Galena.

“He does bring a different dynamic. He’s a pretty good runner and can get out the pocket,” Young said. “He’ll give us a spark offensively.” 

The Vikings will look to the opposite sideline and see a familiar deficit.

“They’re very big, one of the biggest teams we’ve played this year,” Schibi said. “They’ve got some nice pieces in the backfield. Briggs (Adkison) is a player that we’ll have to keep an eye out for. We need to get stops defensively.” 

Barcus is coming off another electric game in the loss to Columbus as the Vikings’ star wideout caught three touchdown passes.

“Everybody knows by now that Tanner is our playmaker,” Schibi said. “We have to put Tanner in positions to be successful. We’ll continue to have new wrinkles to give Cherryvale some looks they haven’t seen this year.” 

Young is cognizant of Parsons’ most vulnerable pressure point.

“We want to try and sustain drives offensively and establish our run game,” Young said. “That’s our biggest goal this week.” 

For two coaches looking to jumpstart programs for the future, Friday night will be a pivotal moment.

“This game is putting a recap on the season and we have a chance to have a positive mentality going into the playoffs,” Young said. “Winning the last game, that’s huge for the culture.” 

“I’m confident in our ability and in our guys,” Schibi said. “If we play like we have the last couple of weeks, we have a chance. But we can’t expect to just beat Cherryvale. They’ll be excited to play Parsons. They’re going to do whatever in their power to beat us when they get an opportunity to play us.” 

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