FAIRMONT - The "throw the records out the window" cliche fittingly describes the long-running annual prep football series between Fairmont and Blue Earth Area known as the Little Brown Jug game.
The southern Minnesota classic's 58th edition between mentor Randy Kuechenmeister's undefeated Bucs (6-0) and head coach Mat Mahoney's Cardinals (3-3) at 7 p.m. Friday night at Mahoney Field in Fairmont will not likely be an exception to the rule.
Blue Earth Area will seek to end Fairmont's four-year grasp on the coveted corked crock and in the process, secure a share of the South Central Conference championship with only one week remaining on the regular-season docket. The Bucs enter the clash of prep titans with a 3-0 record against league foes.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals, who hold a 2-1 league mark, will look to take one step closer to claiming a piece of a fifth consecutive conference crown with a victory during Week 7. Fairmont then would need to defeat SCC foe New Ulm on Wednesday night at Mahoney Field in the two teams' regular-season finale.
"Winning the conference championship was one of our goals going into this season. If it means having to share it, we will since we cannot win it outright at this point," said Mahoney.
"They're the four-time defending SCC champion, so Fairmont's still the team to beat," said Kuechenmeister. "I don't look too far ahead. We see this week's game as just one more on our schedule, although the final outcome will definitely have significant conference and section implications."
Indeed. After both the Bucs and the Cardinals earned state bids during the 2011 campaign, the Minnesota State High School League reunited the two southern tier gridiron powerhouses in Section 3 of Class AAA this fall.
Now, Blue Earth Area will look to maintain its No. 1 spot in the section and the entire class in minnesota-scores.net's Quality Results Formula (QRF), which determines the seedings for the upcoming prep football playoffs.
Across the field, Fairmont will seek to climb out of its current No. 4 spot in the sectional rankings and 17th position overall in Class AAA with a win over its long-time rival.
"The playoff race could change on the turn of a dime with this week's game. Home-field advantage in the postseason is very important, so we'd like to do all that we can to ensure at least one game at home and then take our chances from there," said Mahoney.
Ironically, each prep program returned one key player from the injured reserve list this week, with both Fairmont junior safety Jay Ruen and Blue Earth Area senior defensive lineman Brad More hoping to make an impact on Friday night's SCC battle.
Ruen returns to the defensive secondary after breaking his ankle during Week 2, while More returns to the tackling trenches after suffering a broken foot in the preseason.
"There's no doubt that he (Ruen) will give us a big lift in this week's game. ... He possesses all the tools that we look for at the position (safety)," said Mahoney.
"It's been a long process for him (More) to get back to this point. I don't know exactly how much he'll play, but I'm sure he'll be ready to go for a game like this one," said Kuechenmeister.
So, what will be the keys to success under the Mahoney Field lights on Friday night?
"It still comes down to execution, ball security and not giving up the big play," said Kuechenmeister. "That's what happened during last year's game."
Indeed. Northern State University freshman receiver Adam Schultz delivered an 85-yard kickoff return for a tempo-triggering touchdown to open last year's Little Brown Jug game to help Fairmont stave off Blue Earth Area, 15-13, at Wilson Field in Blue Earth.
"Special teams has had an impact throughout the years in this game, and we have a lot of confidence in that area, as well as in our offense and defense, this season," said Kuechenmeister.
"If we stick to our assignments in all three phases of the game and take care of business on the field (Friday night), all the rest of it - the jug, the conference and the section - will work itself out," said Mahoney. "The atmosphere will be great, and I'm sure both communities are looking forward to seeing a good old-fashioned football game at Mahoney Field."