The Meridian Star
When West Lauderdale and Northeast Lauderdale used to meet on the gridiron, a playoff berth or seed position was up for grabs.
On Friday, the two will meet for the first time as non-division opponents due to West's move to the District 4in the North division of Class 4A in Collinsville.
But with both teams looking for their first win after large losses in the first week of the season, plenty is still on the line.
It's not just a win, it's bragging rights, West Lauderdale head coach Stan McCain said. Last season, Northeast ended the Knights season winning, 20-17, in the last game of the year.
"We'd certainly like to get some [revenge]," he said. "We know each other. I think, after the game everything is great, but everybody is just looking to be able to brag for another year."
Northeast head coach Curt Blackburn said he sees the rivalry moving towards a cross-county set up, rather than a season-breaker.
“I like it better, because there was a lot riding on it,” he said. “This year is going to fun, cross-county rivalry … Either way, it's not going to be the end of our season.
“The kids seem excited with the cross-county rivalry there. They are always going to be up for that.”
Blackburn added that the early season win would be a huge confidence boost for Northeast after being blown out 35-7 at Jackson Academy last week.
“Last year was our first time to beat [West] in the South, and even though we played the next week in the playoffs, that kind of gave us a boost of confidence going into the off season,” he said. That we finally made it across that, I think it could be real big for our season if we could get a win Friday night.”
West is sitting in the same boat with a 42-6 loss at Greene County last week. The Knights were their worst enemy last week, giving up the ball five times leading to scoring plays. Additionally, they couldn't find the end zone to retaliate despite rushing over 200 yards, McCain said.
"We're just trying to not turn the ball over and if our defense plays up to par like they did last week, we feel like we can be in the game," McCain said.
Last week, the Trojans struggled to gain yardage on first and second downs, Blackburn said. While not converting downs, they did rush for 289 yards as a team, giving Blackburn confidence at a few spots.
“Anytime you rush the ball for 289 yards, I feel like your offensive line had a great effort it,” he said.
Of that yardage, quarterback Troy Neely and running back Stevie Sanders accounted for 117 and 168 respectively.
Overall though, Blackburn said it was still early in the season and the Trojans are working out kinks before division play starts.
The added rivalry could mean careless mistakes, Blackburn said.
However, the Trojans have had a good week in practice, so Friday should be a good test to see improvements from the week before.
An added bonus to the early rivalry game means both sides already know each others offense and defense.
McCain said he expects this year to end no differently than previous years, being decided in the last quarter.
"I think it'll be like usual, a hard fought game," he said. "Both teams will come ready to play. It's always an exciting game."