The front-runner for the Midwestern League football title will emerge tonight when Springfield heads south for a game against Ashland.
Both the Millers (3-1) and Grizzlies (4-0) are 2-0 in league play and have easily been the best two teams in the MWL this season.
After losing to Silverton in the season opener, Springfield has averaged more than 55 points in its past three games and outscored the competition 166-26 in victories over Corvallis, Willamette and Eagle Point.
Ashland scored 51 in a victory over Churchill last week and toughed out a 21-7 victory over Marist two weeks ago.
“I think both teams have a lot of confidence right now,” Springfield coach Dave Heuberger said. “It’s going to be a good barometer for us.”
Back in Eugene will be a pair of teams vying to stay within striking distance of the league leaders when traditional league power Marist (2-2, 0-1) plays at Willamette (2-2, 1-1) at 7 p.m.
The Spartans, who have struggled to find consistency in the first month of the season, are coming off a 55-0 nonleague victory over Bend last week that evened their record.
“I think maybe things are starting to gel with us,” coach Frank Geske said. “But I’m not 100 percent sure of that. No one wants to start 1-2, but my first year we were 1-2 and rolled off eight-straight wins.”
The Wolverines have had consistency issues of their own, getting strong outings against Corvallis (34-20) and last week against North Eugene (63-21) but struggling in losses to South Eugene and Springfield.
“Our guys are feeling good about themselves after last week’s win,” Willamette coach Adam Kennybrew said.
The Wolverines might be without starting quarterback Kosey Mitchell, who injured his knee in the second quarter against the Highlanders and didn’t finish the game. Kennybrew said Mitchell practiced Wednesday but as of Thursday was still awaiting doctor’s clearance to play tonight.
Also tonight, North Eugene (0-4, 0-1) will travel to Eagle Point (1-3, 0-2). Churchill has a bye.
Sheldon (2-2, 1-1) will return home for a 7 p.m. Southwest Conference game against South Medford (1-3, 1-1). The Irish are coming off a 21-17 loss to North Medford last week, their first league loss since 2008.
Sheldon, which had five turnovers in its loss to Central Catholic three weeks ago, had four against the Black Tornado.
Thurston (1-3, 1-1) will also be looking for a return to the win column. The Colts will be on the road against Grants Pass (2-2, 1-1). They’ll be without two key playmakers, receiver Carson Cook and running back Roy Jackson. Both suffered knee injuries in last week’s loss to Roseburg.
Thurston’s Justin Starck will return to coach from the box after missing a game because of back surgery.
Also in the Southwest Conference, South Eugene (2-2, 0-2) will be at league-leading Roseburg (4-0, 2-0).
The Sky-Em will begin league play tonight, with Cottage Grove (2-2) going to Elmira (2-2), and Junction City (3-0) at La Pine.
Far West League leader Siuslaw (4-0, 2-0) will host Marshfield (1-2, 1-1), North Bend (3-1, 1-0) will travel to Sutherlin (1-3, 1-1) and Douglas (3-1, 1-0) will host Brookings (0-4, 0-2).
In PacWest Conference play, Santiam Christian (3-1, 1-0) will be at Pleasant Hill (2-2, 1-0), Harrisburg (3-0, 1-0) will play at Scio (1-2, 0-1) and Creswell (2-2, 0-1) will be at Jefferson (1-2, 0-1).
League play continues in the Mountain West, highlighted by a pair of games featuring four undefeated teams with Mapleton (3-0, 1-0) at Triangle Lake (3-0, 1-0) and Lowell (3-0, 1-0) at Yoncalla (4-0, 1-0).