A trip to the Sectional title game hangs in the balance when the Panthers and Bears meet up for the second time this year at the Reitz Bowl.

The first time the two teams met was back in week four. A game that started on Friday night and ended on Saturday night thanks to a nasty thunderstorm that entered the area just before halftime. In that game, Reitz came in on a two game losing skid and found themselves to be a one-dimensional team centered around running back Ke'Andre Vaughn and passing game that was nearly non-existent. All signs pointed to an easy win for the Bears as they led 29-10 when play was suspended.

As lightning literally struck from the sky, it proved to strike figuratively in the Panther locker room as Reitz returned Saturday night with a renewed sense of passion. The passing playbook was opened for quarterback Drew Johnston and on the defensive side of the ball, the Panthers played with a fire that had been missing in the first few weeks of the season.

Reitz would go on to lose the game 31-36 when all was said and done giving them their first 1-4 start since 1998, but the passion and fire ignited during that loss has remained. Week four would be the last time the Panthers have lost a game, winning their last six including a 42-35 win over west side rivals, Mater Dei, that gave Reitz possession of the coveted West Side Nut Club trophy. Last week the Panthers made quick work of visiting Madison with a 56-7 win.

For Central, this will be their first game in two weeks, having drawn a bye week in last week's opening round of Sectional play. The Bears ended the regular season with a 8-23 loss to rival North giving them 6-3 record as they enter Friday night's game against the Panthers.

Expect the Bears to once again rely on the air attack led by quarterback Austin Fuchs and speedy wide receiver Trevor Ferguson as they did in the first match-up. Reitz will also have to keep running back Avion Sullivan in check in the process. Sullivan ran for 94 yards on 14 carries in week four, finding the end zone on two of those carries while adding a third touchdown with a 91-yard kickoff return.

Defensively, the Bears won't be able to focus solely on Ke'Andre Vaughn as they did in the previous meeting. Quarterback Johnston has found a nice rhythm with his receivers, especially Jordan Summers, who has been a standout for Reitz since the week four loss to the Bears not only offensively, but also on the defensive side of the ball from the defensive back position.

It should be a great game, with the winner moving on to the sectional 16 title game where they will take on the winner of Friday night's Jasper vs. Seymour game, and the loser focusing on basketball.

Catch every play between the Bears and the Panthers on Newstalk 1280AM and online at Newstalk1280.com.