Gardiner coach Joe White sees the 2-3 record next to Cape Elizabeth, his team’s opponent for this week.

He’s just not about to read too much into it.

“I wouldn’t put a whole lot of stock into the record at this point,” White said. “Cape is a well-coached football team. Those kids play real hard, and they’re going to come up to a real good atmosphere Friday night. … It’s a great venue for it, two teams fighting for playoffs, and I wouldn’t count Cape out for a second.”

Indeed, the record may be surprisingly pedestrian for the Capers, but this is still a strong program and a good team, one that knows how to win big games — as the Tigers (3-2) saw themselves when they were on the wrong end of a 35-13 score in last year’s C South final.

“I think it’s a pretty important game for both us and Gardiner,” said Cape coach Aaron Filieo, whose team lost to Wells, Leavitt and Greely, teams with a combined record of 13-2. “Every week, we get closer and closer to crunch time, and these games become a little bit more important. We expect a physical game, they’ve got some good players returning from last year’s team. We’re ready to go up there and battle.”

Cape Elizabeth also earned a 21-13 win over the Tigers in the regular season at Gardiner, and Filieo said his team is looking forward to going back.

“I think they’re just going to be excited to go up there and play,” he said. “We like going up to Tiger town, it’s kind of old school, sort of a throwback. … If you like high school football you appreciate going to a place like Gardiner and playing on a Friday night.”

Here’s a closer look at the Cape Elizabeth-Gardiner matchup:

When: 7 tonight

Where: Hoch Field, Gardiner

Cape Elizabeth coach Filieo on Gardiner: “They play hard. They play very, very hard. Sometimes you run into teams that are a little soft and kind of give up, they don’t know how to play for 48 minutes. Obviously, that’s not something we expect with Gardiner. … Much like us, I don’t think there are a lot of standouts that are going to kind of take over a game, but there are just a lot of good football players on that team that will run fast, tackle hard and give 100 percent.”

Gardiner coach White on Cape Elizabeth: “I like to watch them defensively. Kids like Bear Huffard and (Rigel) Daukas, they’re kids that play hard every snap, and that’s contagious with a team like that. … There’s no way around them, in any respect. You’re going to have to find holes, but it’s difficult.”

Three keys for Cape Elizabeth:

• Match the intensity. Gardiner hasn’t lost at home this year, and has visibly fed off of what’s been a loud crowd on Friday nights. With the team that eliminated the Tigers last season in town, Hoch Field should be a lively setting, and the host team will be energized. The Capers can’t come out flat.

• Spread the ball around. Between Matt Laughlin, Matt Conley and Ethan Convey, as well as Jack Tower out of the backfield, the Capers have an abundance of pass catchers that can make plays down the field. Gardiner’s secondary, led by Blaise Tripp and Matt Boynton, is a ballhawking group that can shut down an option or two, but if Cape uses all weapons at its disposal, it can spread out a solid unit.

• Embrace the physicality. Gardiner likes to run the ball and thrives on contact in the trenches. If Cape backs down on the line and Gardiner gets the run game going, it’ll be a long night.

“We know they’re a power running team,” Filieo said. “I would think that they’re going to try to establish the line of scrimmage and try to grind out tough yards.”

Three keys for Gardiner:

• Run the ball. Simple, right? But in Gardiner’s case, it deserves to be underlined. When the Tigers get the ground game going, they look like one of C South’s best teams. When they don’t — as was the case against York and Fryeburg this season — they’re susceptible to ugly losses by multiple scores.

“In those two losses, (we had) zero running game,” White said. “If we’re only running 30 plays and getting only 50 yards rushing in a game, we’re not going to win. Simple as that.”

• Guard the middle of the field. This isn’t the Cape team that handed off to Ryan Weare 39 times last season. The Capers aren’t afraid to take to the air and take chances downfield. Gardiner has to make sure the easiest routes aren’t available and that quarterback Andrew Hartel has to try his luck on the outside.

“It looks like Cape has gone to more of a spread set to move the ball around and make big plays, get the ball to their athletes on the perimeter,” White said. “You can’t give them any seams. You can’t give them anything, really.”

• Start fast. The Tigers will need to do all they can to gain control early — and retain their poise if they don’t.

“We can’t sit back and wait for someone to step up and make a big play,” White said. “You can’t wait with Cape. You have to go right out and get them.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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