The Whetstone and Centennial high school football teams aren't in contention for the City League-North Division championship or a playoff spot, but that doesn't diminish their annual grudge match.
"It's a very important game for both teams, schools, communities and student bodies," Whetstone coach Don Poff said. "It's about pride and a springboard into the offseason and next season. It's a rivalry game and, like in any rivalry, records don't really matter when you take the field."
The rivalry has been one-sided over the past decade, as the Braves have won the past 10 meetings, having outscored Centennial 405-79 in those games. The Stars' last win in the series came in 2002 (13-11).
But pride won't be the only thing on the line Friday, Nov. 1, when Whetstone plays host to Centennial in the season finale for both teams. The Braves enter the contest 5-4 overall and 3-3 in the City-North and the Stars are 4-5 and 2-4.
The Stars are looking to avoid their 12th consecutive losing season. They have not finished .500 or better since 2001, when they went 6-4, and won a total of six games during a seven-year stretch from 2003-09.
Centennial was in position to finish .500 in 2010, but lost to Whetstone 53-19 in the regular-season finale to finish 4-6.
"There's a big difference between being 5-5 or 4-6," Centennial coach Donte Goosby said. "We haven't finished .500 or better in such a long time and it would really give us a sense of pride and motivation going into the offseason if we did. In order to do that, we've got to beat our rival for the first time in (11) years."
Whetstone is seeking its first winning season since going 6-4 in 2009.
"We want to win this one bad because we've got a number of great and talented seniors that need to go out in a winning style," Poff said. "I know we'll have great support there because it's a game that impacts the student body. They're talking about a whiteout or blackout night. The kids in our school are vested in something we've called 'All In.' We've got wristbands and the student body is involved. It's a Braves' thing and anytime you can get young kids involved in good things and support each other, it's a positive to the school and the teachers."
Goosby, who is in his first season as head coach after serving on the Stars' coaching staff for seven seasons, understands the importance of a strong finish.
"We want to finish with a surge," he said. "None of these kids have finished .500 or better ever. They've embraced the changes we've made and we want them to be rewarded and be hungry for next year. A 5-5 season for us is the equivalent of climbing the mountain."
On Oct. 25, Whetstone defeated Mifflin 21-14, its third win in four games, and Centennial lost to Beechcroft 36-7.
The Braves never trailed Mifflin, but needed a late score -- a 2-yard run by running back Melek White to cap a 55-yard drive with less than a minute remaining -- to a break a 14-all tie. White, who had a 23-yard run on the drive to help set up the game's final touchdown, also scored on a 20-yard run to give Whetstone a 14-7 lead in the third quarter.
Running back Austin Davy scored the Braves' first touchdown against Mifflin on a 39-yard run in the first quarter. Quarterback Ramroth Finne-gan was 15-for-22 passing for 202 yards and wide receiver David Simmons had six receptions for 126 yards.
Against the Cougars, the Stars' Jeremy Johnson scored on a 1-yard run in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 9-7. Landers Cox had three touchdowns for Beechcroft and Mike Power ran for one score and threw for another.
Volleyball team falls in semifinal
The 10th-seeded girls volleyball team lost to top-seeded Hartley 25-8, 25-3, 25-17 in a Division II district semifinal Oct. 24 at Worthington Christian Middle School.
The Stars finished 18-7.
"We got smoked (in) the first two (games), but battled (in) the third respectably," coach Brenden Pence said. "Hartley's talent, discipline and experience were extremely tough to overcome for our kids.
"(Setter) Sam Meanor did a great job running our offense at a faster tempo the third (game) to try to give Hartley a different look. (Outside hitter) Symfhani Pitts faced some big blocks but did a great job of continuing to swing smart and aggressively. Alyah Dean stayed tough as our libero, (middle hitters) Alyssa Dean and Jada Briggs added middle blocking and hitting support, and (libero) Maddi Parker did a great job keeping pressure on Hartley with tough serves."