The Sandy Valley High School football team understands how important the final three weeks of the season are.
Following a 28-10 week seven loss to Tuscarawas Central Catholic, Cardinals head coach Zach Gardner emphasized just that to his team.
"This can go one of two ways," he said. "We could pack it in or we can keep fighting. We need to stay bought in and strive for excellence because we have a ton left to play for."
The Cardinals fell to 4-3 on the year after the loss. Sandy Valley remains in a race for the postseason. They were ranked No. 8 in Division V, Region 17 in last week's OHSAA football computer rankings before Friday's game.
Three touchdowns in the fourth quarter were the difference for Tuscarawas Central Catholic. Austin Dick put the Saints ahead 14-10 with a 1-yard touchdown run. Dean Green's 31-yard touchdown pass to Nick Sciarreti then pushed the lead to 21-10. Beau Beamer sealed it with a 14-yard touchdown reception from Green.
Zach Karam put the Cardinals ahead 3-0 thanks to a 17-yard field goal in the second quarter. That was the only points of the first half in a matchup of two high-powered offenses.
Darren Finn caught a 65-yard pass from senior quarterback Nelson Mozden in the third quarter. It was the Cardinals' lone touchdown of the night. It put them ahead 10-7 following a Nathan Price 36-yard touchdown reception for Tuscarawas Central Catholic.
Mozden threw for 155 yards on 10-of-19 passing including a touchdown. Finn finished with 103 yards on four catches. Freshman Brendan Obradovich ran for 80 yards on 13 carries.
Sandy Valley begins a crucial home stretch of the season on homecoming night against Newcomerstown.
The Trojans enter the game at 3-3 on the year with IVC wins over Malvern and Strasburg.
Gardner noted the preparation for the game would be important.
"We need to have a great week of practice and we need to transfer that great week of practice over to Friday night," he said.