By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
One of the area’s most intense high school football rivalries will be played tonight – Thursday night lights, if you will.
New Albany will play at Ripley in the 2011 season opener for both teams. In a matchup that is usually played on a Friday night, the Bulldogs are looking for their third straight win over their Highway 15 rival.
“On both sides of the table, we want to get as many folks to the game as possible,” said New Albany head coach Ron Price, “and we just thought by playing on Thursday night, it would generate more excitement and give other people in the area a chance to come see both of our teams play.
“We just want as many folks at that game as possible, because it’s opening night and I know a lot of folks are starving to see a good football game, and hopefully they can come to Ripley and see that.”
Ripley is not just out to make money from playing tonight’s “Classic Game” – essentially a fundraiser for both the MHSAA and the schools taking part. After losing 49-0 to their rival down south, the Tigers are out for revenge.
“We’re more mature, better prepared and I think our kids are antsy to play,” said Tigers head coach Grady McCluskey, who endured a 2-9 campaign last year in his first season at the helm. “I’m sure they are too.
“It’s a rivalry game. It’s going to be a good ballgame, but I don’t see anybody winning 49-0. It’s going to be a bloodbath.”
Even though last year’s win was a lopsided one for the Bulldogs and Price and Co. enjoyed every moment of it, the Bulldogs head man felt a little sympathy for his adversary.
“Last year I felt like Coach McCluskey was kind of thrown in the fire, getting a late start since he was hired in July,” Price said. “That’s a tough situation for anybody. But he’s got a year under his belt and the kids should be more comfortable with him, and it looks like they are a much improved football team.”
And last year is last year, according to McCluskey.
“No, I did not,” McCluskey said when asked if he bothered to watch tape of last season’s defeat at New Albany. “It’s gone, I can’t find it. There’s nothing to learn from it. We did not watch it. There was no reason to watch it. That’s old history. We’ve moved on.”
Contributing: Kedrick Storey, Southern Sentinel; john.wilbert@ journalinc.com