Wittenberg coach Joe Fincham knew it was not going to be a typical season when two offensive linemen, a running back and a receiver were injured in an opening loss to Butler. The trainer's room went from crowded to standing-room-only in the following weeks.

Wittenberg coach Joe Fincham knew it was not going to be a typical season when two offensive linemen, a running back and a receiver were injured in an opening loss to Butler.

The trainer's room went from crowded to standing-room-only in the following weeks.

"I've been here a long time, and we've had injuries before," Fincham said, "but we've had 15 players have surgery, and that's on top of losing 33 seniors off of last year's team. We're playing with house money. We have shown our character. They just fight and prepare."

The Tigers can clinch at least a share of the North Coast Athletic Conference championship with a victory over Wabash in what has become one of the best NCAA Division III rivalries in the nation.

The teams have combined to win 12 of the past 14 conference championships. Wabash has an 8-7 edge in the series since the Little Giants entered the NCAC in 2000.

"This is a big game," said Tigers senior linebacker Evan Killilea, a DeSales graduate. "It's going to be rowdy. We hate them and they hate us, but we respect one another. It's just like Ohio State-Michigan. Wabash - that's a great team."

Killilea downplayed the long injury list. In fact, he chose to look at the positive.

"Everything that has happened has brought us together," he said. "Guys have stepped up. I'm the senior and hear that 'old man' stuff all the time. I've tried to show leadership. I'm playing for my career. I have only two (more) games guaranteed. We keep winning, maybe we get another game (in the playoffs)."

Because of the loss to Butler, Wittenberg might be in a must-win situation to make the playoffs. Fincham, though, doesn't want to talk about the prospects of Week 11.

"It has been day to day for us," he said. "Dave Maurer was a great, great coach here, and he told me once that sometimes you have to take a hand that is not so great and get the maximum out of it. All I know is this is Wabash week. Wabash has been such a big game."

The road team has won the past two times in this rivalry.

Wabash plays atWittenberg at 1 p.m. Saturday.

mznidar@dispatch.com

@MarkZnidar