The "big game" syndrome has become an overly used cliché in recent years, same as "We play them one at a time."
Sure, they are big games. You can't play but one at a time, and every win or loss is big to every program.
Have to drag it out tonight, though, because so much is happening with so many implications that none of the players, coaches or fans will be ostracized for using the terms.
Tonight marks the final regular-season games for the teams in classes AAA, AA and A. Class AAAA has another week, will wind down while the others are in the first round of the playoffs.
It starts with Northwestern, which plays No. 1 and undefeated Gaffney with a chance to win the Region 3-AAAA title. If the Trojans win tonight and beat rival Rock Hill, they win the region...if Lancaster doesn't beat Spartanburg tonight and Clover next Friday.
The Trojans and Bruins are each 2-1 in region games. If it comes down to a tiebreaker for second place or maybe even a three-way tie for first, Lancaster beat Northwestern and would finish ahead of the Trojans.
If all three end up 4-1, points would come into play because there would be no head-to-head winner among them. But for that to happen, Gaffney would need to lose tonight.
The series has become one of the most contested and exciting in the state since Northwestern opened in 1971. After a slow start, Northwestern picked up steam and leads the series 24-20.
In 1993, Gaffney won the regular season game at the "old" Reservation. Rather than shake hands, former Northwestern coach Jimmy Wallace put one of his "death grip" headlocks on former Gaffney coach Joe Montgomery, now Rock Hill's coach.
There was no intention to maim or fight; just a heat of the moment act. The entire time Wallace kept saying, "Good game. Good game, coach." Seeing as there was no way for Montgomery to pry Wallace's hairy Popeye arms from around his neck, several police officers stepped in and freed their coach.
They met later for the Big 16 state championship at Clemson, and Northwestern turned the tables with a 2-0 win.
In what is called one of the greatest state championship games, Gaffney downed Northwestern 37-30 at USC's Williams-Brice Stadium in the 1997 meeting. Indians quarterback Kentrell Jones passed for 467 yards and four TDs, ran for 50 yards and another score. Northwestern quarterback Derek Ross had 120 rushing yards and three TDs. He passed for 209 yards and a TD.
Rock Hill has been dropping and the recovery would be to beat Clover tonight, then Northwestern next week. To have a shot at the playoffs, the Bearcats need at least one more win.
The real fun is in the lower classes, where all kinds of possibilities are looming for those teams in their final night. The playoffs start next week and higher seeds are hosts.
South Pointe hosts York and each are 4-0 in the region. The winner is the champ, the loser finishes second. And if the game needed more incentive, first-year York coach Bobby Carroll built South Pointe's program into a state power in just five varsity seasons.
The Stallions went 15-0 in their third year, 2008, and beat Northwestern in the Class AAAA Div II state championship. They returned last year as a Class AAA team and lost to Myrtle Beach.
South Point assistant Strait Herron was promoted and played for Carroll at Northwestern. Carroll said on Tuesday there is more to this game than winning or losing. It will be, he said, very emotional. Then added he still wants to win and take York to another state championship. The Cougars last went in 1986 and won.
Nation Ford seems to have a lock of third place in Region 3-AAA behind the Stallions and Cougars, but has a huge task on the road against 3-6 rival Fort Mill. Since the two schools spilt four years ago, Nation Ford has won more games but has never beaten Fort Mill, 0-4 in the region.
A missed extra point at the end last year resulted in a 35-34 Falcons' loss. Nation Ford is 2-2 in the region and holds the tiebreak over the two tied for fourth -- Chester and Fairfield Central. Both are 1-3 in region play. The winner moves on. The losers starts basketball practice.
Indian Land began the season with much promise for its second season in Class AA, but injuries have wiped out already thin lines on both sides of the ball.
The Warriors are 6-3 overall, but stand at 1-3 in Region 4-AA. They host Buford, also 1-3, for the region's fourth and final playoff guaranteed spot. But because Class AA will have two playoff divisions this season, there is still hope for the Warriors.
In Class A's Region 3, bad times are still haunting two of the state's traditionally strong teams, Great Falls (5-4) and Lewisville (3-6). Both are 3-1 in the region, losing only to a Chesterfield team that is a state contender in all but one season, the first, since former USC quarterback Steve Taneyhill took over as coach.
Nothing has changed there, but it has for the two locals. They have ruled the region, not counting ST and his Rams, and the winner tonight in the age-old rivalry will finish second on paper.
And like in Class AA, Class A has two divisions in the playoffs, with Lewisville in DI and Great Falls in DII. And it should be mentioned that Chesterfield is moving back to Class AA next year, so the playing field should become more level.
The area's other team, Westminster Catawba, is done after hosting St. Jude Home School from North Carolina. The Indians made it to the PCF state championship game last season, but are 1-9 this year.
Please check heraldonline.com later tonight for quarterly scores and a tentative playoff schedule after all state games are done. If the trend holds true, there will be several ties to break tomorrow.