Win and go to the playoffs. Lose and check in your equipment because the season's over.
That's the situation facing the Palo Alto High School football team as it heads into its regular-season finale Friday night at 7 p.m. at Mountain View.
Palo Alto (3-6, 2-3) is in a three-way tie with Saratoga and Mountain View for fourth place in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division standings.
Saratoga clinched a spot in the Division III playoffs last week. Mountain View still has the possibility of getting in even if its loses to Palo Alto. But for the Vikings, it's win or go home.
"It's something I've been very clear about the last week and a half,'' Palo Alto coach Danny Sullivan said. "Win we're in the playoffs, lose our season is over. It's up to us if we want to keep playing.''
The last time the Central Coast Section football playoffs took place without Palo Alto involved was in 2014. Before that, it was 2002.
Since then Palo Alto has won three CCS titles, made seven CCS championship game appearances and in 2010 became the only CCS team to win a state championship.
No argument about it, the players and coaches would like to keep that run alive. But Sullivan, in his first year as head coach, is most concerned about building the program and getting it back to the level of prominence it once held.
"I've been challenging the kids a little bit,'' said Sullivan, whose team is coming off a bye. "We want to see if this is something we can use for the future.''
He is very high on some of the prospects on the frosh-soph team, which has gone 8-1.
Mountain View (5-4, 2-3) presents some unusual problems.
"They have a couple kids who really jump out at you on film,'' Sullivan said. "They run the ball very well. Either quarterback (Colin Dickerson and Evan Mountford) can run the ball very well. They have a different dynamic that teams aren't used to seeing. They remind me of Wilcox. They don't use the veer, but they have a similar concept out of their Wing-T of quick hitting plays up the middle.''
Stopping the run will be key. So will establishing the ground game on offense. Palo Alto junior running back Paul Jackson III goes into the game with 899 yards rushing in eight games (he missed the Saratoga game due to injury).
After a 1,000-yard rushing season as a sophomore, the Paly offensive line will be fired up and plenty motivated to try to help Jackson achieve another 1,000-yard season.
So look for a highly-charged atmosphere Friday night at Mountain View.
"They're going to bring in lights,'' Sullivan said. "It should be fun.''
Gunn (2-7, 0-5) at Los Altos (7-2, 3-2), Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
Gunn coach Tony Kelly is pleased with the progress his program has made this season in his first year as coach.
"When we were playing Homestead the kids didn't win the game but they won my respect,'' Kelly said about his team's last outing, a 42-14 loss on Oct. 21. "They didn't quit. Gunn is going to be a school to be reckoned with the next couple of years.''
The Titans go into the Los Altos game as big underdogs.
"I've been out in the barn getting the hay ready,'' Kelly said during the team's bye week last week. "We're going to have something ready for Los Altos.''
Ultimately, Kelly would like to see the program improve to the point it can resume its rivalry with Palo Alto. The two public Palo Alto schools haven't played in football since 2012.
"Once we can compete with those guys at that level I'd love to have that for the school and the community,'' Kelly said. "If we continue growing with our frosh-soph program like we did this year and give us an opportunity to win our league they could put us back up in the 'A' league where we have to play Paly.''
But that day is still a ways in the future.
"We're playing with 19 kids,'' Kelly said. "I got there in June. Our offseason workout program wasn't what it should have been.''
Sacred Heart Prep (2-7) vs. Menlo School (8-1), Friday, 7 p.m. at Woodside High
This 2016 version of the Valparaiso Bowl is largely for bragging rights. Sacred Heart Prep earned a berth in the CCS playoffs with its 30-21 win over Terra Nova. Menlo School finished in a tie for first place with Half Moon Bay in the PAL Ocean, a league that gets only one automatic CCS playoffs berth.
But last year four teams from the PAL Ocean were included in the CCS playoffs with Hillsdale advancing to the Division IV title game, where it lost to Aptos, and Half Moon Bay advanced to the Division V title game, where it blew out Pacific Grove.
But some questions remain. How do these two rivals stack up against each other? Menlo has had the more successful season. But Sacred Heart Prep has won four consecutive CCS championships. Can the Gators rekindle that late-season playoff magic?
Woodside (5-4) at Menlo-Atherton (7-2), Friday, 7 p.m.
PAL Bay champion Menlo-Atherton goes in as a heavy favorite to continue its roll into the CCS playoffs where it is expected to receive a high seed in Open Division I.
The Bears have won seven in a row and are averaging 37.3 points per game. Jordan Mims has rushed for 1,259 yards and 16 touchdowns while Aajon Johnson has rushed for 815 and passed for 1,218.
Woodside can also light up the scoreboard.
Running back Marcelous Chester-Riley, all 160 pounds of him, has rushed for 1,357 yards and scored 25 touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Joseph King has passed for 1,641 yards and 13 TDs.
But the Wildcats have been much too obliging on defense, having allowed 196 points over their last four games. That's an average of 49 points per game.