Both teams are coming off bad losses.
Both want to get back above .500 at 2-1. Both want this game.
Bracken County and Pendleton County renew their Route 22 rivalry Friday night in Butler when the Polar Bears take on the Wildcats.
After taking a two-year break from playing one another, the two fired back up the rivalry series last season, the Polar Bears ending a nine-game losing streak to the Wildcats with a resounding 39-6 victory. The Wildcats hold a 9-2 series edge all-time, the only other Polar Bears win being their first ever in program history back on August 29, 2003.
“I know the kids are anxious, we’re neighboring counties, the players know each other. We love playing them, it usually brings good crowds and we look forward to playing them tomorrow (Friday) night,” Wildcats coach Brian Burgemeier said.
Looking ahead, Bracken is ready to erase the memory of last week’s 48-0 thumping at the hands of Ludlow. The Polar Bears had a running clock put on them in the second quarter.
“We got pushed around up front on both sides of the ball and that can’t happen,” Polar Bears coach Dave Brausch said. “They spent too much time in our backfield offensively and we spent too much time in our defensive backfield defensively. We have to be more physical.”
Adding more insult to injury was losing top corner and receiving option Mason Tucker to an injury. Tucker is most likely out for the season, that comes off losing one of their top offensive tackles right before the season in Travis Tucker to injury.
“We have to pick up the pieces and make a positive out of it. It’s an opportunity for someone else to step up and someone else to show what they can do,” Brausch said.
Brausch harped physicality in practice all week and is hoping the message transcends to 7:30 p.m., Friday. The Polar Bears haven’t been able to get much going offensively, tallying just six points in two games, the other six points coming defensively in a 12-0 win over Switzerland County, Indiana. The Polar Bears need improvement up front with their line, struggling to get much going via their staple in the run game with Tad Fisher, the school’s all-time leading rusher. That’s not stopping Wildcats coach Brian Burgemeier from knowing where the ball will be going.
“Tad is one of the best backs we’ll face all year,” Burgemeier said. “We have to key in on him. We know they’ll bring a rushing attack and we have to be prepared for that.”
A rushing attack is something Pendleton County will feature as well, working in the triple-option offense. But unlike other years, the Wildcats are airing it out a little more, already attempting 29 passes as Matthew Campbell is 14-for-28 passing with 191 yards and two touchdowns on the season. They attempted just 34 passes all of last season.
“We’re still a triple-option team, but now that Matthew (Campbell) is a junior, he’s been patiently waiting and we’re throwing it more. We like to spread it around. We didn’t do that well against Nicholas,” Burgemeier said.
The Wildcats are coming off a 34-14 loss to Nicholas County after a season opening win at Gallatin County. They’ve been able to rush for 358 yards on the season, 142 of them from the legs of Campbell.
“We know they still want to run it first. It’s up to our defense to stop that. We can’t let them rush all over the field like last week, almost giving up 400 yards rushing. If you can run the ball and stop the run, you’ve got a chance in any game,” Brausch said.
Friday marks Pendleton’s first home game, played at Sharp Middle School and it will be a “Salute to Service” game in which all current and former military members will be honored and will receive free admission into the game.
The Polar Bears will try to win one on the road and improve to 2-1 as they head into their bye week, hoping to get momentum back on their side.
“Whatever happens this Friday, they’ll have to live with for two weeks. Other sports you only have to wait two to three days to get another chance. Football you live with for at least a week, this one will be two weeks, so we’re hoping it means a bit more. We’re hopeful they play a little bit harder and hope to get a positive result. Losses bother you a whole lot more than wins make you happy,” Brausch said.
WHO: Bracken County Polar Bears (1-1) at Pendleton County Wildcats (1-1)
WHEN: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Sharp Middle School, Butler
ALL-TIME SERIES: Pendleton leads 9-2
LAST MEETING: Bracken won 39-6, August 31, 2017