By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
The teams have played just three times in almost a quarter of a century.
Still, there’s little doubt that there is a very intense rivalry between the football squads from Madison Southern and Madison Central.
“The kids all know each other,” Southern coach Jon Clark said. “The parents all know each other. And the proximity of the schools — that’s what makes it a rivalry.”
The Eagles (2-0) and Indians (1-1) are set to meet tonight in Richmond.
Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.
It will mark the first time the teams have played since 2008. Central has won all three of the cross-county showdowns (1989 — 39-0; 2007 — 37-8 and 2008 — 57-0) by a combined score of 133-8.
A capacity crowd is expected for the game and excitement has been building at both schools for weeks.
“I understand that they are going to have a lot of people here,” Central coach Bert Browne said. “I think we will too. There’s a lot of talk going on. So, we will just see.”
Both teams head into the rivalry showdown after wins last week.
But, those victories came in very different styles.
Southern jumped out to a 35-0 halftime lead and rolled to a 56-14 win over Whitley County. Standout junior back Damien Harris had five touchdowns and 266 yards on 12 carries as the Eagles moved to 2-0 for the first time since 2005.
“The thing I like about our kids is that they don’t get caught up in the outside stuff anymore,” Clark said. “Their focus is on the game and that’s what is important.”
The Indians had to mount a near miraculous comeback to beat Woodford County last week in Versailles.
Central scored twice in the final 1:47 of the game to claim a 23-21 win. John Williams caught a 44-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter, then Ben Durham connected on a 31-yard field goal with one second left to give the Indians their first victory of the season.
Williams finished with 206 yards of total offense — 102 receiving and 104 on kick returns.
“We were very fortunate to get out of there with a win,” Browne said. “We put the ball on the ground seven times. We only lost two of those, but they both very crucial. They were both in the (Woodford County) 5-yard line on the first two drives of the game.”
The Indians went into last week banged-up and then had several other players get injured against Woodford.
Browne said that Central will be without “four or five starters” today against Southern.
That still doesn’t change the gameplan, though.
The Indians know the key to beating the Eagles will be shutting down, or at least slowing down, one of the state’s top running backs.
“We have to get to the football and we have to stop (Harris),” Browne said. “If you do that, then have to do some other things. But, its hard to stop him. He’s so fast.”
Harris, who verbally committed to Michigan last month, has been nothing short of amazing through the first two weeks of the season.
The junior had six touchdowns (five rushing, one kickoff return) against Rockcastle County in the season opener and had little trouble picking apart the Whitley County defense last week.
Through the first two weeks of the season, Harris has 476 yards rushing on just 35 carries.
Last week, Tyler Hagan also made a big impact for Southern. He scored three touchdowns (two rushing, one defensive) and quarterback Devante Linville completed four-of-six passes for 60 yards.
Southern had never defeated Rockcastle County until two weeks ago, losing all 18 matchups.
The Eagles are also well-aware that they’ve never beaten Central.
And they’d like to end that streak as well.
“It’s a big game. It’s as big, if not bigger than Rockcastle,” Harris said last week after the win over Whitley County. “The two (biggest) teams in Madison County. One team usually dominates the other. We are just trying to put an end to that. We are tired of all the people saying that Southern can’t beat Central.”