BRIDGEPORT -- The way Bridgeport coach Bruce Carey sees it, the records and the ratings are irrelevant in Friday night's game against Robert C. Byrd.
The Indians (6-0) fell one spot this week to No. 2 in Class AA, while the Eagles (6-0) remained at No. 7.
"This is probably the first time both teams have come in ranked this high, but it really doesn't mean a whole lot for the game.
"This is always a big game for both teams anyway. The only time the rankings really mean anything is at the end of the season. Right now the only thing they do is help the schools draw more people to the game."
What the rankings do is signal how dominant both teams have been this season. And for the Indians, the success has come from its ground game. Bridgeport has ran through, around and over opposing defense so far, averaging 376.3 yards on the ground.
Senior running backs Jeremy Hinzman and Brian Berry lead an offense which is averaging 38.8 points -- tops in the Big 10. Like Robert C. Byrd, the Indians operate out of the stick-I, powering the ball in the heart of its opponents' defenses.
However, stopping the rush is what Robert C. Byrd does best, giving up just under 78 yards rushing per game.
"We should still be able to run the ball like we have in the past," Bridgeport right tackle Aaron Horne said. "We have to come out fired up and hit them first. (Robert C. Byrd) runs the stick-I, but we've perfected it. We still have to do the things we've done all year, and I'm sure Robert C. Byrd will do the same."
Hinzman is a bruising, physical fullback, who also has the ability to run away from defenders once in the open field. He leads the Indians with 589 yards and 11 TDs on just 56 carries (10.5). Berry is the team's tailback and has been equally impressive with 561 yards and seven TDs on 88 carries.
There are still more weapons in the Indians' arsenal. Junior upback C.R Rohrbough can score from anywhere on the field. He has two rushing TDs and leads the team with eight receptions for 132 yards and three TDs. Junior Mike Honce has seen time in the backfield and is another big-play threat, averaging 11.8 yards per carry. Honce has gained 367 yards rushing and five TDs.
"These are the kind of games you want to play," Bridgeport's Josh Nicewarner said. "Whoever wins will play their best game. You have to utilize the mistakes the other team gives you. If you're the team that makes the mistake, you're going to have to work that much harder to overcome it.
"No matter who it is, we still have to block and player just as hard. This is a big game, though. We have to do our job on the line. This game could come down to one play, so you can't let down once."
Sports writer Mike Nutter can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org