The football schedule leaves little room for error.
Despite falling behind 20-7 to Davenport Central last week, the Muscatine Muskies feel like they let one slip away in a 28-25 loss.
However, the Muskies also know Cedar Rapids Jefferson is in a very similar boat, meaning Friday night's game pits two teams looking to do anything within their power to get a tick in the win column.
For the Muskies (0-1), getting out to a better start is of key importance.
"I can't put my finger on why we started so slow (against Central)," Muscatine head coach Jake Mueller said. "We did have a number of guys in key roles who were making their first varsity appearance, I'm sure that played a role.
"(But) we won't change much in our preparation, we need to use last week as a learning experience."
Jefferson (0-1) lost last week to Cedar Rapids Kennedy, 21-10. Kennedy is currently ranked seventh in Class 4A, so the Muskies know the Hawks' 10-point performance is deceiving, given the qualify of their opponent.
"Jefferson is a good football team. They played Cedar Rapids Kennedy who is one of the premier teams in eastern Iowa," Mueller said. "They competed with Kennedy all four quarters. We will have to make a big jump in improvement this week in order to be successful."
Offensively, Jefferson is led by a group of seniors, namely Jacob and Gabe Coyle.
Jacob Coyle was 4 of 13 passing last week for 43 yards, but all four receptions went to Gabe Coyle. The former ran 14 times for seven yards, the latter twice for four yards.
Ezeki Leggins and Jacob Thompson each had nine carries in Week 1, Leggins for 63 yards and a touchdown; Thompson for 19 yards.
For their own part, Muscatine is searching for one thing:
"What we are continually looking for is consistency," Mueller said. "We did some good things in spurts last Friday night, but we weren't consistent in doing them."
Consistency against Jefferson would mean keeping their offensive attack as inefficient as Kennedy did.
Although the Muskies fell into that early hole last week, they battled back, ultimately falling short in a game that was decided in the last two minutes.
Muscatine will look to get its offensive playmakers involved, perhaps earlier than last week.
Junior Tim Nimely ran for 127 yards on 23 carries to lead Muscatine's offensive charge. Senior quarterback Sam Wieskamp was 9 of 19 through the air for 144 yards. His favorite targets were senior Zach Hardy (three catches for 82 yards) and junior Eli Gaye (five receptions for 40 yards).
The Muskies are hoping the defensive effort of last week's second half carries over, too.
Muscatine scored 18 points in the third quarter against Central. All came on plays of 25 yards or more. The first came on an interception by junior Jorge Ocampo that ended up being lateraled to senior Takpor Tiah for a 70-yard touchdown return.
Central's one-yard score by quarterback Sam Strang with 37 seconds left decided the game, but it was the only score allowed by the Muskies in the second half.
"Our team kept fighting, and I'm pleased we were able to respond," Mueller said. "Our next step is going to be, when we have the lead in the fourth quarter, we have to close it out and finish."