SPRINGHILL – The North Webster Knights and Haynesville Golden Tornado are very familiar with one another.
Both schools know the other boasts a talented roster, both enjoy pounding opponents with their ground game and hard-nosed defense and both enter the 2015 season as serious state championship contenders.
A large crowd is expected in Haynesville to watch the two schools kickoff a season full of promise.
Even North Webster head coach John Ware, usually one to deflect any expectations or spotlight, acknowledged that Friday night is a big one.
“It’s big because it’s the first game of the year,” Ware said. “Of course, it’s a rivalry with them. The excitement and build-up for these kids and the communities is always fun and our guys are ready to play in a significant game.”
Ware, who was born and raised in Haynesville, played for the Golden Tornado. While playing center for the Tors in the early 90’s, Ware was on two state championship teams that run the exact same system he’ll see Friday night. Even though he is well aware of what Haynesville will try to do against him offensively, that doesn’t make the task of stopping the Tors any easier.
“We’ve got to be disciplined,” Ware said. “If you’re disciplined you have a good chance. If you’re not watching what you’re supposed to watch and you get fixated on the wrong guy, they’ll bust you. They’re going through a great run right now.”
Against the Haynesville defense, Ware has had a hard time finding cracks in the armor, prompting him to preach patience this week at practice.
“They’re big up front, they’re athletic and they can run you down,” Ware said. “They are always where they’re supposed to be, so you have to be patient playing them and take what they give you. Our teams are a lot alike.”
Special teams have played a big role in previouse meetings between the Knights and Golden Tornado. Last year, a muffed punt robbed the Knights of a shot to drive the field and win the game.
“A guy like Conroe McMullan could be huge in this game,” Ware said. “Last year there were two big special teams plays that swung the momentum to Haynesville. Special teams is certainly going to be critical and I feel like we have an advantage with Conroe.”
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. in Haynesville.