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A rivalry renewed

Nine miles separate their campuses, but very little will be able to keep Marengo and Sweet Water apart tonight when the long-time rivals meet. Both squads are fresh off of season-opening wins. The Bulldogs dropped Thomasville while Marengo knocked off Georgiana.

“I think we played pretty good for the first half and a little of the third quarter. We didn’t play 48 minutes,” Marengo head coach Scottie Jones said. “This week (we’ve been) working on playing the full 48 minutes.”

Marengo opened strong against Georgiana before sputtering in the second half and falling prey to the turnover bug. Jones said his team has focused on some fundamentals this week in an effort to address its deficiencies.

“We’ve been really trying to focus on alignments and assignments and getting our kids in position to make plays,” Jones said.

Conversely, Bulldog head coach Stacy Luker said his team has had its own focal points during the week of work leading up to the rivalry game.

“We turned the ball over for one thing,” Luker said of last week’s game against Thomasville before turning his attention to quarterback Damaraquis Williams. “He had a good night. He threw a couple of bad balls he didn’t need to throw. But he had a couple big balls that he threw that got us out of jams.”

“We’ve had a good week. We’ve got the kind of kids now where Thomasville wasn’t a big win for us,” he said of Sweet Water’s mindset following the win over Thomasville.

The last three meetings between the teams have resulted in three Sweet Water victories. The Bulldogs have not allowed the Panthers to score since Marengo’s 44-0 victory in 2002.

“When Marengo and Sweet Water play, it’s a street fight,” Luker said of the rivalry. “You never know what’s going to happen. Our kids are definitely not taking anything for granted.”

Luker said this season’s Marengo team could be particularly dangerous.

“They’ve got 19 juniors and seniors,” Luker said.

Tonight’s clash will be the first taste of the rivalry for Jones, who said his players have a better understanding of the nature of the feud than he does.

“They know what to expect more than I do,” Jones said.

Should Sweet Water pull out the victory, it would extend the team’s winning streak to 29 games, matching a school record that was achieved in 1979.

“I was on the field for 28, 29 and for the loss going for the 30th,” Luker said. “I hope I don’t have to see it again. But we know it’s going to end some time.” Sweet Water’s record streak began in 1978 and ended in 1979 with a 33-27 loss to Highland Home.