TUSCOLA — There are dates coaches circle on the calendars. There are dates fans highlight.
They are not necessarily the same. Ask Tuscola's Rick Reinhart and Shelbyville's Stan Wienke and they will mention the biggest date as Nov. 25, the day state championship games are held for small schools at Memorial Stadium.
Fans are apt to regard Friday's night's matchup between the Okaw Valley Conference schools in high esteem. The game marked the return of Wienke to the community where he was the head coach for 200 games during an 18-year tenure.
The current Tuscola team — unbeaten and top-ranked in Class 1A — overran Wienke's rebuilding Shelbyville squad 41-6, but the coaches downplayed the buildup.
"I'd be wrong if I said this was more important," Wienke said. "All I've preached for 20 years is that no game is different than another game. We've done exactly the same things (in preparation) that we always do."
Wienke conceded there was one major difference.
"Now I get to go on the other side of the field and look in the faces of all the people I've heard cussing at my back for years," he said.
The team's playbooks and offensive philosophies are, in Wienke's opinion, "identical." That required creative ways to call plays in his no-huddle scheme.
"I can't stand there and yell names of a play," Wienke said. "They know everything we're doing. I have to use signals, codes or wristbands so they don't have any clue what play we're running."
If Wienke has his way, more than the plays will be similar between the Tuscola and Shelbyville programs in the future.
"My kids are not any different (than Tuscola's), but there's a reason they haven't won as many games," said Wienke, whose Rams held halftime leads in each of their first two games. "They can be just as good, but they have to learn to be as good.
"If you want your team to be as good, you have to copy them (Tuscola's Warriors). You have to learn how hard they work, how hard they prepare."
On Friday, it was hard for Shelbyville to keep up with a Tuscola program under the guidance of Bears Coach of the Week Reinhart, which has played in two consecutive state championship games.
T.J. Onstott (15 tackles) led a defense that yielded 54 yards rushing. He said the coaches didn't place any extra emphasis on the Week 3 game.
"Every week, we prepare the same," Onstott said. "We knew his stuff, and he knew ours. We just had to adjust to what would work."
The Warriors (3-0) had their most balanced game. Philip Meyer passed for 206 yards and four touchdowns, two to Dillon Hoel, who hauled in six receptions.
Josh Brookins (130 yards) led a rushing attack that had generated more yards on the ground by halftime than the team had at the end of either of its first two games.
"Our line did a good job taking care of people at the point of attack," Reinhart said, "and Brookins had a huge game."
Tuscola had 270 yards on 50 running plays.
Onstott said the Warriors understand Wienke's relocation.
"No hard feelings," he said. "He had to do what he had to do for his family."
Wienke's next win will be the 200th in his overall coaching career. Reinhart hopes he gets it soon.
"It's good to see him back on the sidelines," he said. "It's where he belongs. We're both lifers.
"No doubt, this was a huge game. We still have a long ways to go, but we're on the right track."
In a pregame ceremony, Tuscola honored former Marine Harland (Hop) Conner, 90, who has been raising the flag for the national anthem for 63 years. Conner, who was born on Flag Day, fought in three wars.