It was the game that shook the city last year, and it’s time for round two.
The game everyone’s had marked is finally here, Park Crossing against G.W. Carver in Cramton Bowl at 7 p.m. on Friday night. Buzz has been circling the city since the summer, and the trash talk has only gotten louder since.
A city rivalry at its finest.
“There’s been a lot of talking. A lot of people are talking down on our program, saying we don’t have anything this season. There’s been a lot of outsiders, and even some of their players, talking crap to our teammates, just talking down,” Carver linebacker Lyndell “Mack” Wilson said. “But we had a team meeting on Sunday, and coach told us, ‘We’re not going to go back and forth with them. We’re going to do all of our talking on Friday.’”
This year’s game is the opposite of last season’s meeting, when the Thunderbirds edged out the Wolverines for a 29-22 overtime victory. Carver was the reigning city champs, riding a 19-game winning streak against city opponents.
Park Crossing was the new kid on the block. The first-year program wasn’t supposed to be experienced enough to knock off the champ. But that’s why they play the games.
“It changed a lot in the community and our school. Everybody thought we were going to have a pretty good team. Beating Carver last year, that set the tone for this season,” Park Crossing quarterback Malik Cunningham said.
And what a difference a year can make. Carver, region champs last year, is 3-3 and fighting to for a playoff spot. And after narrowly missing the postseason last year, Park Crossing is eyeing a region title in its second year.
But even as the favorites, the Thunderbirds aren’t taking Carver lightly.
“The roles are almost reversed in a year. We’re coming in with the undefeated region record, chance to seal up the region championship, and they’re the so called ‘underdogs,’” Park Crossing coach Smitty Grider said. “I don’t think they’re the underdogs. I think it’s a toss-up game. They have a really good team. They haven’t played well at times, but this is a game where they will play well. We’ve got to be ready for that.”
It’s rare that the Wolverines ever get to play the underdog role, so they’ve embraced it.
“We talked about it during the midway point, that we were going to approach the second half of our season as a four-game season for us with our region schedule. This is game 2 for us, and it so happens to be a big rivalry and a game we lost last year, and we’re kind of embracing this underdog role,” Carver coach Billy Gresham said. “We have nothing to lose, so we’re going to let it all hang out on Friday night.”
Hopefully the battle lives up to the hype. The game features multiple Division I prospects on both sides of the ball, including the top three players from the Advertiser’s Top 10 Players to Watch list in Wilson, and Park Crossing’s safety duo of Jeawon Taylor and P.J. Blue.
The biggest reason the Thunderbirds won last year was because they weren’t intimidated. They didn’t think about what Carver could do to them, they were thinking about what they could do to Carver. And even though a lot has changed in a year, that’s stayed the same.
“We’re just going to do what we do. We’re going to take the game,” Park Crossing receiver Steven Hodges said. “We’re not going to take what they give us, we’re going to take what we want. We’re just going to go out and do what we want to do.”