The current seniors for Clinton-Massie and Wilmington high schools have been through three previous Friday night battles in this backyard rivalry.
The first one, in 2014, was all Massie, 49-7.
The next two have been extremely close and exciting games with the Falcons coming out on top 29-28 in 2015 and 23-21 in 2016.
This year’s contest, set for a 7 p.m. Friday kickoff at Alumni Field? At the beginning of the season, many thought it would be for an SBAAC American Division title and major seeding points in the playoff rankings.
Along the way to all that, though, Wilmington was decimated by injuries to numerous key players. So the Hurricane is playing for pride while the Falcons can still earn a share of the division title.
“Proud of my players for handling everything that has been thrown at them with the amount of season-ending injuries they have had to deal with,” WHS head coach Scott Killen said. “Most of them have played multiple positions and have showed up each day and worked their tails off.”
Massie is 8-1 overall and 3-1 in the division. The ‘Cane stands 6-3 overall and 2-2 in the American.
Despite what may be a David versus Goliath scenario, Massie head coach Dan McSurley expects to get Wilmington’s best shot.
“We’re going against a team that knows us pretty well both offensively and defensively,” he said. “Wilmington has nothing to lose, so we’re expecting an intense effort. We’re going to need to be ready for the kitchen sink … fakes, double passes, onside kicks.”
Killen said the Falcons are fast, physical and fundamentally sound in all areas of the game.
“They do a great job of forcing you to make mistakes and then they feed off of those mistakes,” he said. “They want to establish the fullback and then grind you out with Christian Poynter. Then they will take advantage of you peaking into the backfield and hit (Luke) Richardson up top.”
For the Hurricane, a wild 56-35 win last week over Western Brown saw the offense under quarterback Mason McIntosh finally find a groove, Killen said. The defense, however, had trouble with “eye discipline,” he added.
The Falcons bounced back after the loss to Goshen, 33-31, with a 44-14 win over a New Richmond team that had thoughts of an American Division title.
“The first half of New Richmond was one of the most dominating in recent memory,” McSurley said. “I think the loss to Goshen may have sparked something we’ve been missing. Sometimes you don’t know what you have until you get beat.”
Clinton-Massie could still have a share in the league crown with a win Friday over Wilmington and a New Richmond win over Goshen. That scenario would leave Massie, Goshen and New Richmond all at 4-1.
To end the season with high-powered games like Goshen, New Richmond and Wilmington, the Falcons are in playoff mode.
“The emotional part shouldn’t be an issue; it’s something we’ve looked toward all year,” McSurley said. “For the season, it has been a lot of fun and this is the time of the year you really just need to live in the present. The challenge is trying to peak at the right time. The emotion we experienced (the last couple weeks) needs to be maintained from here on out.”
For Wilmington, this week’s game is most likely the end of the season. There is still a slim playoff chance with a win Friday. Just as important, though, this season may be something that vaults the Hurricane into future success.
“It has shown the younger kids that you never know when it is your time, so you have to be physically and mentally ready,” Killen said.
WHS seniors who will be at Alumni Field for the final time in their careers are Dylan Beaugard, Conner Barton, Frantz Cherisca, Matt Smith, Kyler Reed, Sloan Marsh, Derek Davis, Jaren Evans, Zack Eden, Tyreese Ford, Dorian Taylor, Tony Merritt, Wes Lunsford, Parker Gunkel, Brett Bell, Jeffery Mansfield and Doug Eastes.
“This group of players came in with me my first year hear and I would do anything for them,” Killen said. “They bought into the process and have fought for the entire four years, no matter the situation. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to be their coach and look forward to watch them start the new chapter in their lives.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email email@example.com or on Twitter @wnjsports