LITTLE CHUTE (WLUK) -- For the second week in a row Little Chute is playing a game with conference-title implications, but the difference is this week the Mustangs need a win; there's no other option.
Little Chute fell last week, 9-6, to Wrightstown and now trails the Tigers and this week's opponent, Freedom, by one game in the North Eastern Conference.
The Battle for County Highway N, as the Little Chute-Freedom game is called, is huge, but coach Ted Evers is trying to keep everything somewhat normal.
"I think our league is very good from top to bottom, but there's no question, I think the proximity of these games, Freedom's right up the road and so is Wrightstown, just the proximity adds a little extra juice to these games," he said. "I'm not going to say they mean more, but they're definitely intense battles."
Little Chute won the conference title in 2018 and Freedom went perfect in NEC play last year to win the crown. For what it's worth. Wrighstown won it in 2017. The Mustangs, ranked No. 9 in the FOX 11 Top 11, need to get by the No. 2 Irish in order to have a chance to win their second title in three seasons.
"I think Freedom's the best team in the conference," Little Chute senior Ryan Verstegen said. "I think they're the team to beat this year. I know they say Wrightstown is, but this Freedom team is pretty good. I think we match up with them as well and I think if we win this we can get back to it."
"Of course we were disappointed after the hard-fought loss to Wrightstown," Evers said. "But it's pretty easy to get up for the Freedom game, no doubt about it because it's a big game for both communities and the kids have fun."
Sometimes teams will skate away from calling a game a must-win, but the Mustangs know the score Friday. They have to win.
"If we're going to get our goal to be conference champs we got to win this Friday," Verstegen said. "This is a must-win game. I think everybody here knows that. Tuesday kind of seemed like that, it seemed a little more intense, so they know it's a must-win game."
And after losing to Wrightstown last week, a win at Freedom this week would certainly point the Mustangs in the right direction.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay