Win or lose, Weedsport football will be playing its final game of the season this weekend.
The Warriors, newly crowned Section III, eight-man champions, have one final test, one final obstacle, one final trip to the field before the helmets, shoulder pads and cleats are put away.
Since eight-man football is still relatively new in New York state, the NYSPHSAA has not developed a full state tournament yet for that level. The hope is that as more teams decide to go the eight-man route, there will be a full tournament in 2019.
So instead, Weedsport will face Section V's Oakfield-Alabama/Elba at noon Saturday at Pittsford-Sutherland High School in Rochester in what is being termed as the Upstate championship.
Like Weedsport, Oakfield-Alabama was a traditional football power in Section V before falling on hard times in recent years and was forced to join up with Elba to field a varsity team. The Warriors actually played and beat the Hornets in the 2004 Class D state semifinals on their way to winning the state championship.
Also akin to the Warriors, the Hornets had low numbers on the first day of fall practices and made a last-minute request to the section to switch to eight-man.
That wish was granted, and Oakfield-Alabama/Elba rolled to a section title.
"Their offense is very similar to Sherburne-Earlville in how they operate, it's just their talent level is considerable," Weedsport coach Jon Sgarlata said. "Their quarterback is 6-3, 190 pounds and probably faster than anyone we have on the team. Then they have a little shifty tailback that can fly and is a really instinctive runner. They also have an excellent nose guard who gets off the ball extremely quick. He's really is disruptive and at times completely ruins the other team's offense.
"They have three really good players that we'll have a hard time matching up with, but Xs and Os wise we've seen teams with similar sets."
The elements could also prove to be a hindrance. The weather forecast for Saturday in Rochester projects for a mix of rain and snow, and wind gusts that could potentially reach up to 40 mph. Temperatures are expected to sit in the mid-30s.
"When you play in adverse weather, it's the combination of all the elements," Sgarlata said. "Being on turf helps because you're not on a muddy field and I don't think we're going to get a lot of moisture, so the biggest concern is going to be the wind. It's just the mental toughness of being able to play when you get hit. If you get hit in the hands in 60 degree weather it hurts for a few minutes, but in 15 degree weather it hurts the rest of the day."
Does finishing the season perfect matter at all? Weedsport already has the section title in tow, along with a league championship, but this week the Warriors expect to play their cards a little differently.
Gone is the stress and anxiety of trying to win that section title. Instead, the Warriors are treating this game as a reward for winning that championship. Sgarlata said the preparation and game plan will mimic a college bowl game, and he expects to play as many different players as possible.
The game could also give an idea of whether Weedsport can contend for an eight-man state championship, should the NYSPHSAA install that by next season.
"I think the politically correct answer would be that it does matter not finishing perfect. You want to win every game you play in," Sgarlata said. "I think looking back at the season six months from now, we'll admire the section championship more than anything, and the experience of switching to eight-man and some of the controversy that ensued.
"We've been through enough to be proud of our season."