MAYVILLE - Dan Greco would rather not discuss it; he prefers to just play the game.
The fact remains, however, that when his Chautauqua Lake Thunderbirds play host to Maple Grove tonight for a Class D battle of unbeatens, it'll be one of the school's biggest games in recent memory - right up there with that Section 6 semifinal at Silver Creek in 2010 and the Class DD championship bout at Ralph Wilson Stadium a year ago.
With the Thunderbirds' recent struggles against their neighbors to the southeast - they haven't beaten Maple Grove in their last four tries and have been outscored by a combined 139-26 - and the knowledge that the victor tonight would be putting themselves in the driver's seat of the class with three weeks remaining in the regular season, Greco and his team are thrilled to be in the position they're in.
And since Greco took over in 2008 a squad that had gone just 24-47 in its eight seasons prior, it's a position that Chautauqua Lake has found itself with ever more regularity.
"We're looking forward to it," Greco, a former Maple Grove defensive coordinator, said of the contest set to begin at 7 p.m. "It's great to be in this situation and Chautauqua Lake hasn't for some time. We're finding ourselves more and more in these big games. It's great for the kids, it's great for everybody and we're happy about it."
Happy, and confident.
This time a year ago, the Thunderbirds were competing in the "small school" Class DD. Despite moving up a class this year to the "Super D," the results have been exactly the same.
Chautauqua Lake, the No. 6 ranked team in the state for Class D (Maple Grove is No. 1) has won 12 games in a row, the sixth-longest streak in the state.
"A lot of these kids played last year and even though it's a different league they've developed confidence when they play," Greco explained. "We've continued with that so far this year."
A big part of the success this season has been due to the running attack, which has averaged 270 yards per contest. Leading the way is senior Adam Carpenter, who has averaged 7.42 yards per carry (he has 319 total on 43 rushes) and has scored a team-high three touchdowns. Also making contributions are Nick Zentz and Ryan Miller. Together the trio has gained 539 yards on the ground.
"We're a running team," Greco said. "We're going to try and do that (today). I don't know how successful it'll be, but that's what we've done."
But, Greco quickly added, they have other options with quarterback Kyle Mayer, who has competed over 60 percent of his passes but has thrown just 18 thus far.
"If necessary we can go to the air," Greco said.
Running to victory had been a major part of the Maple Grove equation as well until standout running back Oliver Simpson, who had racked up 338 yards on 46 carries with four touchdowns over the first two games, went down with a shoulder injury in the third quarter of the Red Dragons' week-three contest with Randolph.
There are conflicting reports on whether Simpson will be able to suit up, but Greco is assuming he will.
"From what we understand," he said, "he's playing. We expect him to play. We heard he had a shoulder sprain and have not heard that he is out. (If he is) it would certainly hamper them, but they still have a lot of weapons."
One of those weapons is quarterback Aaron Germain, who had his breakout performance of the season last week when he ran for 70 yards, passed for 142 with a pair of touchdowns, intercepted a pass and ran the opening kickoff 80 yards for another score.
"He's played as good as anyone in this league," Greco said.
Whoever is on the field and whoever is getting the carries, however, Greco noted his team is ready and raring to go.
"We're just looking forward to the game," he said. "Every game is huge in this league. I hope we make it a good one."