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Maroa-Forsyth is never short on rivalries.

First, there was St. Teresa. After the teams traded playoff upsets in 2004 and 2005, the games up until 2010 were as anticipated as any in the area.

Central A&M and Maroa have played some great games recently, particularly the two games in 2009, the A&M upset in 2011 and the near-comeback by A&M last season. And the fans of the two teams just don’t seem to like each other.

Then there’s Maroa’s playoff rival, Casey-Westfield. Maroa fans still talk about the mysteriously wet sidelines that appear whenever the Trojans play a game there. Casey fans don’t like that even though the Warriors beat Maroa in the 2011 playoffs, the Trojans have the excuse that they would have won had quarterback Logan Stelzriede not suffered a concussion.

But St. Teresa and A&M are moving to a new conference next season, and though the Trojans and Bulldogs will still schedule each other for the foreseeable future, they’ll no longer be in the same conference. They also aren’t in the same postseason class any more, and neither are A&M and Casey — both are likely to consistently be in 1A from now on, with Maroa moving up to and staying in 2A.

That leaves Tolono Unity. Even though they’re not in the same postseason class (Unity is 3A), starting next year they’ll be duking it out for the Okaw Valley Conference title. And they have a bit of a head start. For the third straight year, both teams come into the game ranked in the top three in their respective class in the AP Poll — this year Unity is No. 1 in Class 3A and Maroa No. 1 in 2A.

In the previous two games, two teams known for big offensive numbers have played each other to a defensive struggle. Maroa won 13-7 in a mistake-filled game in 2011. Last year, in the rain-soaked debut of Maroa’s new Fieldturf and scoreboard, Unity won 7-6.

Here’s the tale of the tape for this year’s matchup — the last one without conference title implications on the line:

Quarterback

Each QB — Maroa’s Jack Hockaday and Unity’s Justin Deters — is smart at runningthe read option and capable of breaking long runs. But Hockaday separates himself with his ability to throw the ball — he’s the best passer in the Okaw Valley Conference. Deters struggled throwing the ball last year, though there’s been improvement on that front this year. Hockaday also benefits by being surrounded by more weapons than Deters.

Advantage: Maroa

Running backs

Maroa’s Chad Howell, a sophomore, has shown signs of breaking out and could be Maroa’s star of the future. But Conner Grace helped carry the Rockets to the Class 3A state title game last year and is capable of carrying Unity to a win — even against a defense as good as Maroa’s.

Advantage: Unity

Receivers

Unity is much improved at receiver this year, with wide-out Mitchell Snodgrass the main deep target, but red zone threat tight end Hiley Freeman is out with a broken collarbone. Still, receiver is Maroa’s strong suit. Clayton Zilz, Alec Martin, Josh Ratts and Drew Fredericksen makes up a formidable group that can make plays in short or long yardage situations.

Advantage: Maroa

Offensive line

Both teams debuted several new linemen this year. Unity did return Dalton Grimm — a starter on last year’s team, and line always seems to be a strong suit for the Rockets. Maroa doesn’t have a single lineman returning at the same position, but does have Tyler Ortmann and Brock Elliott back from last year and a new group that includes 6-4, 225-pound Jacob Murphy.

Advantage: Maroa

Defensive line

This is Unity’s best position. The Rockets not only return All-Okaw performer Anthony Vasquez, they gained a transfer from Maroa who started on the line last year in Christian Whicker. They also start a beast in Tyler Crowl, who had six tackles including two sacks last week. Maroa is no slouch on the line and returns Ortmann and added some good players in Murphy and Brandon Owens. But most of Maroa’s defensive linemen are also offensive linemen, putting them at a disadvantage against a more rested Unity D-line.

Advantage: Unity

Linebackers

Both teams have become known for their linebackers, with Maroa building a reputation through Tyler Roush, Dalton Coventry, Tim Yuenger and Curt Beckman, and Unity through Seth Gooch, and Kyle and Mitch Negangard in recent years. And while Unity still has a good group led by Colton Reed, Maroa has good linebackers standing on the sideline. The Trojans’ group is led by probably the best linebacker in the conference, Justin Mikeworth, and also includes Elliott, Arbor Emroski, Arik Inda and Zilz.

Advantage: Maroa

Secondary

The game’s biggest mismatch is Maroa’s receivers against Unity’s secondary — the Rockets have good athletes, but not enough to match what the Trojans have. With so many good receivers, it makes sense that secondary is also a strength for the Trojans. They have a hammer at free safety in Hockaday and a lockdown corner in Fredericksen.

Advantage: Maroa

Special teams

It was a missed extra point that doomed the Trojans last year, and special teams usually plays a role in games between evenly matched teams. Both teams have dangerous return men and big hitters on their punt and kick teams, so that’s a push. Maroa, though, wins the battle at kicker and punter. Unity kicker Cameron Spomer missed three extra points last week. And while Mikeworth isn’t can’t-miss, he’s much more reliable. Hockaday is an above-average punter and keeps punt defenses honest with the threat of running or passing.

Advantage: Maroa

Coaching

Unity’s Scott Hamilton and Maroa’s Josh Jostes are two of the best coaches in the state. Though Hamilton has been doing it longer than Jostes (Hamilton has 19 straight playoff appearances at Unity, with Jostes at nine), both have their programs at a place where winning a state title is the only goal. Both have tailored their programs to fit their coaching styles and both have shown the ability to adjust on the fly when needed.

Advantage: Push

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