The 43rd meeting all-time will take place between Mason County and Fleming County, Friday night in Flemingsburg on the gridiron.
How close has the series been since the start of it in 1979?
Each has 21 wins apiece. The Royals have scored 808 points in the 42 games, the Panthers 747. The runs of wins went the way of the Panthers in the beginning stages of the rivalry, winning 14 of the first 18 matchups, then the Royals took a stranglehold on the series, winning 17 of the next 20 contests, now the Panthers have the victory stretch back on their side, winning the last four matchups.
While the past is fun to talk about, all eyes will be on the field come 7:30 p.m., on what should be a beautiful evening if weather predictions hold up with temperatures in the mid-70’s at kickoff.
As far as play on the field, not sure anyone knows what to expect. Both teams are still trying to find their identities after productive senior classes have departed. Some clarity may have been given after the first week of the season, but still many questions arise.
“It’s tough to take kids and figure it out in four weeks of practice,” Royals coach Jonathan Thomas said. “We know they are not the team they were and are trying to figure it out and so are we.”
A Week 1 victory for the Royals came way of a 12-man North Adams, Ohio team, a 53-0 shellacking in which the majority of the Royals’ first string sat the entire second half, building a 40-0 lead by the break.
The Panthers were on the opposite end of a thumping, taking a 47-6 loss at the hands of Harrison County. They’ll look to regroup and gain some momentum offensively, registering just 94 yards of offense from scrimmage and turning the ball over five times.
Now the two wipe their slates clean to focus on the task at hand.
For the Royals, one would imagine they’ll look to bruising running back Seth Chambers early and often to get him going. Chambers ran for 102 yards on six carries and two scores last week. In order for that to happen, the Royals will need to control the line of scrimmage.
“The game is always won there (line of scrimmage). Fleming does a really good job of stacking the box when they need to, forcing us to throw and we’ll have to be able to throw the ball a bit,” Thomas said.
An efficient ground game would not only help the Royals move the chains and keep the clock running, but help take some pressure off first-year starter Carson Brammer. Brammer threw just three passes in the first week, completing two of them for 98 yards, including an 85-yard touchdown pass to Jayden Riggs on the Royals second possession of the game.
“The biggest thing for Carson is he has the first game under his belt. We started that way on purpose last week, it’s a different animal this week. We’ll have a gameplan and need him to follow that. We know it’s hard to win if you can’t run the ball. We’ll rely on Seth and the o-line if we can and pick and choose spots to throw,” Thomas said.
With both teams having so much turnover along the lines, the battle in the trenches will prove vital in the outcome. Fleming didn’t fare so well in their first battle. The Thorobreds consistently controlled the line of scrimmage, running for 480 yards, including three guys for over 100. That will have to change come Friday night.
“You can say that about any game, this game especially. If we can control the line of scrimmage, we’ll be in good shape. Last year against them we had to grind it out. I’m confident enough with our abilities to do that. Control the line of scrimmage and control defense and offense,” Panthers coach Bill Spencer said.
Getting something going not only defensively, but offensively will be big for the other first-year starter under center, Jonathan Maher. Maher struggled in his first start, completing just three of 13 pass attempts for 14 yards.
“Johnny was eager and ready to get reps this week. We have all the confidence in him and he just needs to see it himself,” Spencer said. “We’ll ease him into things, get things going on the ground and we have confidence in him throwing the ball.”
Emotions will run high, as expected in a rivalry contest. Another factor to keep in mind is the majority of kids playing in this one for both haven’t really experienced time on the field in this setting. Keeping cool, making routine plays and avoiding penalties could be another game-changer.
“I’m sure it goes one or two ways. They’ll either be really nervous or it won’t matter. Most of these kids haven’t been here. I know we’ve been after it this week, but we’re still battling early season stuff and still trying to figure us out…How to play, how to practice, routines, not a ton of kids who have done this before, we’re very green,” Thomas said. “We need to make the routine plays routine and not let the game get too big for us. Our nerves shouldn’t be there when Friday comes if you’ve prepared well, when you’re not prepared that’s when nerves kick in. We’ll give it our best shot.”
Fleming falls in the same category with inexperience in a big game.
“There’s not a whole lot we can do until we get there. You can simulate some things in practice and this and that. Friday night is a whole different situation when those lights come on, we’re hoping to respond better than last week,” Spencer said. “Last week was a humbling experience. It brought us down to Earth real good, everyone wants success and wants to win, but you have to earn it, go out and dominate and control the lines and earn wins. Harrison was hungry and did what they had to do. We expect Mason to do the same thing. We have to decide how hungry we are.”
The Cheap’s Chevrolet Game will kickoff at 7:30 p.m. On Thursday, the Flemingsburg Giovanni’s Pizza announced they have made it possible for students at Fleming County to not have to pay for another home athletic sporting event, this also includes Mason County’s students Friday night.
WHO: Mason County Royals (1-0) at Fleming County Panthers (0-1)
WHEN: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Fleming County High School, Flemingsburg
ALL-TIME SERIES: 21-21
LAST MEETING: Fleming County won, 18-14, on August 25, 2017