Bulldogs, Pioneers set for another season-opening installment of the "backyard rivalry"
The wait for a new high school football season is almost over, which means another season-opening installment of one of the area’s most spirited rivalries is upon us – New Albany vs. Providence.
The programs, separated by just two miles, are more than familiar with one another, and they’ll reacquaint 7:30 p.m. Friday at Providence’s Murphy Stadium. The rivalry dates back to long before the players were born but halted and was recently renewed as the season opener for both teams.
“It’s a backyard rivalry,” Providence head coach Larry Denison said. “Just like growing up, when you had a big rivalry with some of the kids in your neighborhood, that’s kind of what we have here. A lot of our kids know their kids through sports, playing little league together and other things like that. It’s just a natural competitive situation.”
New Albany leads the all-time series 26-22 and is 3-1 in the past four meetings, but Providence won three straight from 2009-11 and is 6-4 since 2007.
Denison, who played for the Pioneers in the 1980s, said he didn’t lose a game to the Bulldogs when he was a student-athlete. But the competition, he says, is what makes the series what it is.
“We had some great games with New Albany back then,” Denison said. “It was always a huge crowd. It was always something that brought everybody out to see the games. They were very competitive back then. … We’ve won some. They’ve won some. That’s what makes it a rivalry. … That’s what makes this so special.”
Host New Albany won last year’s meeting 44-7 in Sean Coultis’ head coaching debut, which isn’t lost on the Bulldogs’ students, who made T-shirts for Friday’s game – deemed a red-out – with 2015’s result on the back.
New Albany’s passion has been high all week, in fact, with it being Spirit Week on the Bulldogs’ campus. The students take part in activities and themed dress-down days, among other things. Providence has done much of the same, set to culminate in a pep rally on Friday.
“Kids are doing chants in the lunchroom,” Coultis said. “I’m doing lunch duty, and I’m out in the hallway, I have cafeteria duty, and you hear the kids doing all kinds of chants, just getting real loud and fired up. … It gets them excited. We want it to be fun. We want to put on a good show for them.”
Despite last year’s result, both sides should be in for a good show this season. Denison said the Pioneers’ strength early on will be their defense, and they’ll need it against a New Albany team with dangerous running backs junior Darquan Richardson and sophomore Detre Payton.
READ MORE: Providence returning to its roots in 2016
Providence, meanwhile, will shift back to a power-running game that could give the Bulldogs’ young defense fits, too, spearheaded by senior Micah Oberhausen and sophomore Kaden Williams. Oberhausen, a superb athlete, is also a defensive back.
Friday’s matchup is a good measuring stick for both teams as the season kicks off, and serves as possible validation for all the offseason work put in by the players. But that’s just scratching the surface. Bragging rights are on the line.
“A rivalry game – those are the games you look forward to,” Coultis said. “You don’t coach football or play football to play inferior opponents. … Those are the ones that get your blood flowing.”
Game of the Week
Who: New Albany at Providence
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Murphy Stadium
Last meeting: New Albany, 44-7 (Aug. 21, 2015)
John Harrell’s pick: New Albany, 35-21
READ MORE: Week 1 area football preview capsules