By Jamie Wachter / Sports Editor
The Meridian Star
Northeast Lauderdale is coming off a pair of tough losses. West Lauderdale has been eliminated from the playoff hunt. Still, there will be plenty on intensity tonight at Trojan Field.
In fact, Northeast coach Curt Blackburn figured his players would have been ready to play Monday.
“It doesn't matter when we play this one,” he said. “We could've played it Monday and surely they would've been up for this one.”
The Trojans, 4-6 overall and 1-3 in Division 5-4A, didn't need to be in game mode quite that early. But that ability to rise up for a rival is something the Trojans and Knights share. While West, 2-7 overall and 0-4 in the division, will end its season following today's 7 p.m. kickoff, coach Stan McCain doesn't expect anything but the Knights' best.
“When us and Northeast get together, regardless of what's at stake or not at stake, there's no problem in getting ready,” McCain said. “That's our rival and I'm not sure what they key has been for us against them, but we enjoy playing them. We try to make sure we can match their intensity and then be able to sustain it.
“They always play tough against us, but we do enjoy playing against them. And that goes in every sport, not just football.”
That effort has paid off recently for West, which has won seven straight against its rival. Two years ago, the season-ending win was the only victory of the season for the Knights and cost the Trojans their first division championship. Three years ago, West's overtime win kept Northeast home for the postseason.
The Trojans are hoping that doesn't repeat itself. Northeast is currently fourth in the division, owning the head-to-head tiebreaker against Newton County. So, a win clinches a postseason berth. A loss, though, even coupled with a Cougars loss to division champion Quitman would also mean another long offseason for Northeast. Newton County would win the fourth seed in the event of a three-wa tie due to point differential, as the Cougars are +8. Northeast currently is +4 and West is minus-12.
But that isn't motivating the Knights.
“To be honest, we're not that concerned with Northeast,” McCain said. “We're more concerned with West Lauderdale and making sure we have something positive to take away from the season with us and into the offseason.
“We really want to get that win, especially for our seniors and they haven't had too many of those over their career.”
Still, it is definitely proving some extra push for the Trojans, especially the seniors, according to Blackburn.
“That's what we've been preaching all week, 'It doesn't matter who we're playing, the thing that matters is if we win, we're in the playoffs,'” he added. “Especially for the seniors that this can extend their season. I told them that they had one more opportunity to put the pads on, and it's up to them if they get to do it again or not.”