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High school football fans around the area will be at Henry County's field this Friday at 7:30 p.m. to watch the Wildcats take on cross-county rivals Eminence in what's shaping into a heated battle- at least they should be. I could give you a long list of reasons why to come out to this game, but it would be much larger than this one column could handle.
Of course the No. 1 reason is how well these two local teams are playing. Eminence is still unscratched at a perfect 5-0, while Henry has just one loss at 4-1. Both squads are primed to have their best seasons in recent memory. This Friday's showdown will be for another check in the win column and bragging rights for an entire year.
Which brings me to the No. 2 reason. Some of you might already know this, but (hold your breath) this could be the last year of the annual football clash for a while, which means it could mean bragging rights for years to come. Due to a scheduling conflict, the teams will either play week 10, week zero or not at all when next fall rolls around.
Next season, instead of the typical 11 weeks to get in 10 football games, teams across the state will have just a 10-week stretch to play regular-season games. But each team will have the option of playing week zero, which is the weekend before the official start to the season. This would mean giving up one of the two pre-season scrimmages, though, which puts this scenario in doubt for the Henry-Eminence matchup.
With the final weekend the only other option for both Henry and Eminence, and the state playoffs beginning the following weekend, that scenario seems unlikely, too. The possibility of working something out is still up in the air, but as of now it doesn't look good.
We've had some nail-bitters in the past, which is what this Friday's game could play out as. Since 1965, Henry leads the series 27-19. (HCHS and EHS played twice in 1981, 1982 and 1983 with HC winning all six games.) In 2005, in a game of what-ifs, Eminence was leading 16-0 on its home field before the lights went out. The next day, play resumed and the Wildcats stormed back in a turn of events to win 48-22 almost 24 hours after it started.
In 2006, Eminence held off Henry for a slim 8-7 win in a edge-of-your-seat type game that tied the 2001 contest (when Henry won, 33-32) as the closest ever between the rivals. Then, in 2007, Henry won 29-20. The Cats built a 22-6 lead before the Warriors tried to forge a comeback.
In 2008, both teams seem ready and this could be the last game between the schools on the football field since the rivalry first started during the 1960s. All high school football games are important, but this one even more so with county pride on the line. It's a game you don't want to miss - that's for sure.