For the last 14 years, the Kennewick Lions and Southridge Suns have put pride and sweat on the line in their cross-town football rivalry.
This year the stakes are a little higher, however, as both teams remain in the fight for one of the four 3A regional playoff spots on Friday, Nov. 5.
The Suns (3-4, 3-2 CBBN 3A) will take on the Lions (5-2, 3-2) at 7:30 p.m. today at Lampson Stadium.
A win for Southridge clinches a regional berth, but a Kennewick win -- along with a Pasco win -- means a Week 9 showdown against the Bulldogs at Edgar Brown Stadium for the final playoff spot.
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"First, it's Kennewick versus Southridge. Playoffs aside, it means a lot to both sides," Lions coach Bill Templeton said. "We both want to go out and perform well."
Several talented skill players will take their places in the offensive and defensive backfields, but both coaches agree that the game will be won in the trenches.
"Both teams have some confidence right now. The game will be decided up front," Templeton said. "It will come down to who can limit mistakes and keep turnovers down."
Momentum could play a role, too. After losses in Weeks 3 and 4, Kennewick has won three straight, outscoring opponents 90-13 during that stretch behind a potent offense led by quarterback Drew Loftus (76-147-2-913, 11 passing touchdowns; 11 rushing TDs).
And the question for Southridge is not how to stop the senior signal-caller, but how to contain him and Bodie Simpson (32 catches, 352 yards, 6 TDs), the league's leading receiver.
"The key is in the containment. We know (Loftus is) going to get his, but our goal is to keep him in front of us," said Suns coach Tony Reiboldt, who was the defensive coordinator at Southridge for six years before taking over as head coach this season. "We've got a huge challenge ahead of us. Loftus is an outstanding athlete, and the kids know that.
"Defensively, we've really preached playing together as one and rallying to the ball."
But the Suns aren't the only team wary of a talented quarterback. Kennewick must plan for Southridge junior Matt Mendenhall (118-202-4-1,808, 8 TDs), the league's leading passer, and three of the CBBN 3A's top six receivers in A.J. Henderson (29-484, 2), Dallin Palmer (29-482, 3) and Josh Richards (25-366, 1).
"I'll tell you what, we've watched a lot of film on Matt, and that kid can flat throw the ball around," Templeton said. "And he'll have some receivers who can go up and get it. They are very skilled."
KAMIAKIN (7-0, 5-0 CBBN 3A) AT HANFORD (1-6, 1-4)
It hasn't been an easy year for the Falcons, who have been outscored 213-61 thanks in part to a brutal nonleague schedule.
It won't get any easier against the No. 5 Braves, who have outscored teams 269-61 with a versatile spread offense and a stingy defense.
"You know, we are so concerned about ourselves right now, I'm not even thinking about all that," Hanford coach Rob Oram said. "It's very challenging. Our focus is on (telling them) you've got to execute. Whether you're 6-1 or 1-6 is irrelevant, and who you're playing doesn't matter.
"It's what you have control over that matters."
Hanford hit a low point in Week 4 with the loss of two-way lineman Aaron Neary, who was one of the team's anchors. Neary, also a standout basketball player, was lost for the season after breaking his ankle during a 35-6 loss to Pasco.
"I've been coaching at Hanford for 18 years, and we've never had a more devastating injury," Oram said. "You know how he got hurt? He chased down (Pasco speedster Brandon) Search on a pass play.
"He was such a calming influence."