Rivalry renewed

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, August 19, 2010

The battle for county bragging rights is on the line tonight.

Two long time rivals will face off, each looking create momentum heading into the new season.

It’s time for Bulldogs and Trojans to battle it out – it’s time for the annual Pike County Classic.

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In the matchup between Charles Henderson and Pike County, both teams have had their fair share of winning streaks in recent years.

The Trojans have claimed the last two games, and in the process snapped a three-year winning streak by the Bulldogs.

However, this year’s game has several storylines that may make this meeting stand out beyond the rest.

While Robert Johnson may be a new comer to the annual showdown, he knows a thing or two about the opposing team, thanks to his time at Carroll.

“Charles Henderson is a very good team,” he said. “They are a top notch 5A club and they have always had tremendous talent.”

Johnson faced the Trojans twice during his two-year stretch as Cardinal head coach.

“They are a big team, obviously,” he said.

“They are going to bring a lot at us all at once. And it’s going to be our job to be able to handle that kind of pressure.”

With a victory tonight, Johnson will become the first Bulldogs’ coach to defeat CHHS since Wayne Grant did it back in 2007.

In the coach’s mind, there is one way to obtain that victory, as Johnson said he has talked to his team about winning the biggest battle on the field – the line of scrimmage.

“This is going to be our main focus – winning the battle up front.

“If we are able to do that, we are going to be able to do a lot of good things (tonight),” the coach added.

Even though this is the coach’s first time leading PCHS against CHHS, Johnson said he knows what is at stake.

“This is a big game for everyone involved with it,” he said.

“To have a rivalry like this start off the season is pretty exciting. I know the coaches and the players both have been looking forward to this game for a while.

“As for me, I am extremely happy to be a part of this game,” Johnson said. “We are ready to show what we can do on the field – we are ready to get the season underway.”

Playing in front of a home crowd is another reason why Johnson said there is a lot of excitement surrounding the game.

“We get to open the season at home, with all of our fans watching.

“That makes it an ever bigger deal for us,” the coach said. “We want the season to get off to a great start, and it all begins with us defending our home turf.”

While Johnson may be entering his first Pike County Classic, that is not the case for the coach on the opposite sidelines as CHHS head coach Hugh Fountain is entering his 15th inner-county meeting.

One thing Fountain said he has learned over the years is who this game is really important to.

“I think more than anything, this game is about the two different communities and the people that represent them,” he said.

“This is a game that everyone really enjoys to watch. Everyone wants his or her team to win pretty badly.”

The rivalry aspect is something that Fountain said really makes this game meaningful.

“Rivalry games are very important,” the coach said.

“Bragging rights play a big role in this type of game and everyone wants to be able to have them for a year – they are a big motivating factor, and that makes things fun.”

For the past two years, it has been Fountain’s Trojans that have had the bragging rights, as CHHS has beat PCHS by a combined score of 76-20.

“The past two games are typically pretty uncharacteristic of what to expect in this game.” Fountain said. “We were able to get a lead early on in both games, which helped a lot.

“But usually, these games are very close, hard hitting game all the way through.”

As far as his counterpart goes, Fountain said teams that he has seen Johnson lead are always very tough.

“Robert is a classy man. He does everything first class and always has a tough-minded football team on the field.

“He is going to get his team fired up for this game,” he said. “Anyone that thinks this is going to be an easy ball game for us doesn’t know much about either teams.”

Someone who knows how the games are first hand is CHHS starting quarterback Corey Dennis, who has played in the last couple meetings.

And while the meeting between the two archrivals is uniquely placed at the beginning of the season, Dennis said he and his teammates use it as an advantage.

“Most schools get to play their rivals towards the end of the season,” Dennis said.

“For us to be able to play our biggest rival at the beginning of the season is great. It motivates us to get off to a great start.”

The Trojan starting quarterback said of all the games his team plays during the season, this is one of the games he looks forward to the most.

“It’s a much win. No doubt about it,” he said.

“This is one of the biggest games of the season for us. This is a game we circle on the calendar. There is no other option but to win the game.”

The next chapter in the rivalry will begin at 7 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium tonight as both the Trojans and the Bulldogs will look to claim bragging right for another year.