The players will be different when the Amherst and Colby football teams clash in a WIAA Division 5 playoff game tonight.
And a trip to Camp Randall Stadium for the state championship game won’t be at stake.
Butboth teams understand the importance of tonight’s opening round game of the WIAA playoffs.
In its simplest terms that means win and keep your season alive.
Lose and it’s time to pack up the helmets and shoulder pads, and look forward to next season.
“This is the first round of the playoffs and you have a chance to move on,” said Amherst coach Mark Lusic, trying to break down what the Level 1 matchup means.
“Both teams are still doing the same stuff. It’s the same offense, the same defense. It comes down to execution,” Lusic added. “I don’t think it’ll be revenge. I think it’s going to be, ‘Here we go.'”
The last time the Hornets and Falcons were in this position was last November.
Colby was one step from reaching a second straight Division 5 state title game, with a chance to capture back-to-back championships.
Instead, Amherst secured a 34-6 win in the state semifinals en route to making school history with its first state football title.
No one has to remind Colby what happened in that game.
Amherst senior quarterback Chris Zblewski rushed for 175 yards and three touchdowns — all in the first half before exiting with a leg injury. He also threw for two more scores.
The 2011 Division 5 state champion Hornets are anxious to see how they stack up against Amherst nearly one year later.
“We had a really good practice today (Tuesday) and we’re excited be in the playoffs,” Colby coach Jeff Rosemeyer said. “We have an opportunity to redeem ourselves from last year against Amherst.
“They bring a lot of talent on the field and we’re excited to play a good team like them.”
Both teams enter with just one loss on their resumes.
Amherst watched its 17-game winning streak end at the hands of Shioction 21-14 in Week 5. The Hornets fell victim to Cloverbelt Conference champion Stanley-Boyd 37-7 on Sept. 27.
Colby will look to avoid a repeat performance that resulted in three early turnovers and just 141 yards of total offense that doomed it a year ago against Amherst.
And make no mistake, the thought of returning the favor and ending the reign of the defending state champion Amherst has not gone unnoticed
“We’re excited for this one definitely,” Colby senior quarterback Cody Meyer said. “This is going to be a big game to see if we can get a little revenge. We’re going to have to tackle a lot better and not turn the ball over.”
Only unbeaten Shiocton, which is ranked third in the small school division of the latest Associated Press poll, was able to actually accomplish the objective and take down the champion.
And having some recent history against another quality team like the Hornets has its pluses and minuses.
“I think our guys are starting to understand what it’s like to play at a high level,” Lusic said. “As the season has gone on I’ve seen that sense of urgency more.
“It’s great to be here again. It’s a special time of the season, it’s playoff time, you win or go home.”
The Hornets coach said playing Amherst last year in the playoffs offered his team a better glimpse of what they’re up against, something film alone couldn’t provide.
“I think we have a little better understanding of them,” Rosemeyer said. “When you play a team in person, I think you get a feel for its personality. They’re a very aggressive team, very athletic and bring some size.
“We might be out-athleted at some spots, but we’re not going be outworked.”