Jon Meeks' team at Louisa County still has six games to go this fall. But to hear him talk about Friday's Jefferson District opener against Monticello, you'd think the season was on the line for his Lions.
"The only thing I can compare it to is, it has that playoff feel," Meeks said Wednesday at practice. "It's only the first District game. Fifth game of the season. But it feels like a playoff game. Feels like a do-or-die."
Louisa enters Friday's game with a 2-2 record, after last week's 42-7 win at home against Spotsylvania. But the Lions are still looking for their first back-to-back wins of the 2012 season.
"And our goal from the beginning of the season was to win districts," said senior quarterback Zack Jackson. "So we have a fresh start. We have to start off good, on the good foot, and we have to come out, play well. This game is really big."
"Monticello, they're a pretty good football team," agreed junior running back Deion Johnson. "And I think if we come out and beat them it's going to set the tone and we're going to be back on top."
No one has beaten the Mustangs in the first month of the season. Monticello's 3-0 record includes a pair of wins on the road -- last week at Goochland, and the team's opener at Albemarle on August 31.
And coach Rodney Redd says his team knows the amplified importance of winning games in the district.
"The kids, they seem more focused," Redd said at practice on Wednesday. "This is a group, they've played in some big games. And they seem to realize that the stakes are getting bigger every week, as well as that bulls-eye on their back."
"It's been fun," junior Josh Malm said of the Mustangs' 3-0 start. "Last week, Goochland, that was a tough opponent. We're trying to look forward to keeping all that going toward district play. Still work hard; even harder. This is when it really counts. We've got to make sure we do what we're supposed to do."
The two district rivals are 5-5 in their last 10 meetings, including last year's 41-37 Monticello win at home.
"It's really exciting to be able to go into Louisa. I mean, 'The Jungle', as they call it," said junior running back TJ Tillery. "You've just got to go in there prepared; got to be focused and just play football."