When it comes to the Homer-Haynesville rivalry, Golden Tornado head football coach David Franklin has seen just about everything the game can give.
No matter the score, the situation or the venue, there has been one constant in Franklin’s eyes.
“Nerve-wracking,” Franklin said. “They’re all nerve-wracking.”
Franklin’s nerves will be put through the ringer again tonight when the game dubbed the Claiborne Parish Super Bowl kicks off at 7:30 at Haynesville’s Golden Tornado Memorial Stadium.
The game has surpassed a century in age and has seen many familiar faces.
Homer coach John Sampson hasn’t been around the rivalry as long as Franklin, but has seen it from a couple of different angles. Prior to taking over the Pelicans’ football team before last season, Sampson coached the Pelicans boys basketball team.
Yes, the Golden Tornado and Pelicans face each other in basketball.
“The basketball game’s a little bit of a rivalry, but it’s nothing like the football game,” Sampson said.
For players whose schools sit 14 miles apart on U.S. Highway 79, bragging rights are on the line. Sampson said he saw the responsibilities change for him last season, the first time he led the Pelicans into the game.
From handling game preparations to the game itself, things changed for Sampson. Franklin can empathize with Sampson.
Rivalry games of any sort threaten to introduce distractions and wrinkles into game-week preparation, let alone a game with more than a century of history behind it.
“I told the kids so much goes into this game,” Franklin said. “I try to remind them everything they do this week is about a kickoff at 7:30 Friday night. Prepare yourself for that. The rest is extra.”
The 100-plus years of history between Homer and Haynesville sets it apart from other games.
There remain, however, certain facets of the game that run concurrent with other rivalries.
“I played in it,” Franklin said. “(Haynesville assistant) Coach (Tony) Gantt played in it, but he was on the other side. Our kids, almost every kid we’ve got out here, their father played in it. The hate, I guess, is handed down.”
Franklin was quick to point out the hate is more a mutual respect, one that forces combatants on both sides to put friendships aside during game week, never more so than Friday night.
“Coach (Maz) Bursey at Homer, we ran together on relay teams at (Louisiana) Tech,” Franklin said. “We’re good friends, but …”
Though the Pelicans enter the game with an unblemished 2-0 record and Haynesville is 1-1, this game perpetuates the “throw out the records” cliche coaches enjoy employing.
Having seen Homer-Haynesville from his various vantage points, Franklin understands that perhaps better than anyone.
“It’s hard to even watch film,” Franklin said. “I know they’re saying the same thing, especially if they saw our tape from Friday night (a 40-36 loss to Peabody). You’re going to see them at their best and I hope they see us at our best.”
Even the results of the game can be misleading. Last season’s 50-26 loss to Haynesville dropped Homer to 0-3, but Sampson saw something building that night.
The Pelicans won six of their final seven regular-season games and reached the second round of the Class 2A playoffs. Sampson credited the atmosphere and importance of the Haynesville game with setting up the late-season run.
“It did what a rivalry game was supposed to do — it brings out the best in both teams,” he said.
Connect with Jason Pugh on Twitter at @JasonSPugh.