It's a rivalry that dates back to 1901, but several Hoosac Valley and Drury football players are getting their first taste of the historic showdown this weekend.
"I don't think they really realize the intensity this game is going to take," Hoosac coach Dayne Poirot said. "That's really what we've been trying to impress upon them all this week, how intense this will be."
The Hurricanes will travel to North Adams to play Drury in the 128th meeting between the two rivals. The Hurricanes hold a 67-52-8 all-time edge in the series and feature seven sophomores who will be in the middle of the rivalry for the first time at the varsity level Saturday.
The Blue Devils also have a sophomore-heavy team, with 10 on the roster. Due to injuries and low numbers last season, the Blue Devils don't have as many players that haven't played in the rivalry game. Those that haven't are ready for their chance.
"I'm definitely pumped about playing in the Hoosac game for the first time," junior Brandon Koprowski said, he missed last year's game with a broken wrist. "Hopefully make some big plays and get the crowd going."
Hoosac players are also excited to get their first crack at Drury. Hoosac took the game last year in Adams, and Drury won the last game played in North Adams, in 2010. Hoosac, formally Adams High, has out scored the Blue Devils 1,768 to 1,196 in the series.
"I'm looking forward to being out there with my friends and seeing the big crowd, it's our first time so it's exciting," Hoosac Valley sophomore Zach Wright said. "We're always expected to win, so there is a lot of pressure on us."
This week has had a different feel for everybody getting ready for Saturday's contest. Both teams weren't able to practice on Monday or Tuesday because of Hurricane Sandy, but that's not the only reason this week is different.
The squads finally got onto the practice field Wednesday and both practiced Thursday and Friday.
"The intensity at practice is so much higher and there is a lot less messing around," Koprowski said. "I mean it's game time, it's all about taking care of business. It's Hoosac week and we're all looking forward to doing what we have to in order to beat them."
For Drury, a playoff berth is a long shot as it enters the game at 3-5 and sits eight points behind St. Joseph's for the final spot in Division III. For the seniors, the game is a chance to have bragging rights. The Hoosac seniors hold a 2-1 edge over the past three years.
"It's so big. It's huge, I think we're ready for this game," senior Jose Melendez said. "It's rivalry week, you're more intense, you're more pumped up. You really have to be more serious."
The Hurricanes are fighting for their playoff lives, as well. They sit in fourth place in Division II entering this game. Both teams started this season with a lot of young players, but both are drawing off the experience of this season.
"With such young teams, we've really both tried to eliminate the mistakes," Poirot said. "Hopefully, at this point in the season a lot of those kinks are worked out. We feel like we've improved on it and [Drury] certainly has improved on it, too."
The Blue Devils were bit by the turn over bug early in the season, handing the ball to opponents 17 times in the first six games. In the last two games, Drury hasn't turned the ball over and has a two-game winning streak. The Hurricanes are coming off of a win against Taconic.
"It's a huge rivalry, so it's going to be fun to be out there and do our best," Hoosac sophomore lineman Austin Milesi said. "We're going to have to stay low, tackle and not let up any big runs."
Both Melendez and fellow senior Alex Bush are capable of breaking big runs. Melendez leads the league in carries and will likely see the ball quite a bit in this one.
Hoosac takes a different approach, spreading the ball around to four or five different backs. However, both teams will have a common opponent: 127 years of history.
"We have to take it like every other game and not buy into the hype too much," Bush said. "We just have to execute and focus on our game plan.
"You have to keep reminding yourself it's just another game, you know it's a rivalry, but you can't jump into the hype."
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