About the only thing older than the rivalry between Kerens and Malakoff is the Trinity River.
That’s what separates the two towns, the two schools and the two football teams.
It still flows, and so does this classic game that comes once a year.
“It’s something that’s been done for years and years. They call it the Battle of the River,’’ said Kerens coach Russell Anderson, who has been at Kerens for seven years.
The rivalry is a bit older.
When the two teams meet at Tiger Stadium on Friday night, it will be the 75th time for the Battle of the River. Kerens leads the series, 45-26-3, but Malakoff has won the last four.
“We’ve been in a little dry spell,’’ said Anderson, whose team led last year’s game 28-27 in the fourth quarter and then lost 44-28. “We had a turnover and they took advantage of it, and we kind of ran out of gas. It’s numbers. They have so many more kids than we have.’’
Malakoff isn’t only a bigger school but the Tigers are one of the top Class 2A teams in this part of the state, and they have been playing like a team that could make a deep run in the playoffs, scoring 123 points in their first two games.
“They’re pretty dad-gum good,’’ Anderson said. “They’re a very good Division I Class 2A football team. I think they’re ranked third in their region. They have two really good running backs.’’
Marcus Dowell ran for 197 yards against Kerens last year and he’s back, but the Tigers’ other Dowell — Domontes Dowell — is coming off a huge night in Malakoff’s 67-15 win against Italy last week. He ran for two touchdowns, threw a touchdown pass and also ran a kickoff back for a touchdown.
“They’re good, without a doubt,’’ Anderson said. “There’s no way you are going to shut them down. We have to contain them and slow them down and make them go on long drives. We can’t make turnovers.’’
Kerens is coming off a big 54-0 win against Dawson, bouncing back from an opening night loss to Edgewater. QB Nate Betts ran for 122 yards on just four carries and threw for 133 yards and a TD in the win. Tailback Rayvon Faulk rushed for 145 yards on seven carries and Tavion Hall gained 122 yards in the rout.
But after a 1-1 start, Anderson knows his team will have to step it up against Malakoff.
“Obviously, we’re not where we want to be,’’ he said. “We’ve got to get better defensively and be more physical and tackle better. Offensively, we’ve been pretty good but we have to improve.’’
Anderson said he’s pleased with much of what he’s seen.
“Mason Glasgow our center has been a pleasant surprise and Jeremy Gould had a big game last week (Gould caught a TD passed and returned an interception for a touchdown). We have felt he had the potential to be a good receiver. He’s a junior who has played behind some pretty good people.’’
All the Bobcats will need big games on Friday, but with this ageless rivalry, Anderson won’t need to say much.
“No, no, no,’’ he said of any extra pep talk. “It’s like any other rivalry. They will be up a little more and we will be up a little more. It’s an intense game, but it’s a friendly rivalry.’’
Kerens at Malakoff
7:30 p.m. Friday
At Tiger Stadium
RECORDS: Class 1A D-I Kerens 1-1. Class 2A D-I Malakoff 2-0.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Kerens: QB Nate Betts, LB Aaron Foxworth , WR Shelton Sayles, WR/DB: Jeremy Gould, Malakoff: RB Damontes Dowell, RB Marcus Dowell, OL Israel Chavez, LB Jordan Harris.
UPDATE: This is the 75th anniversary of the game ... Kerens leads the series, 45-26-3 ... but Malakoff has been successful lately ... the Tigers have won four in a row and came back in the fourth quarter to win last year’s game, 44-28 ... Marcus Dowell rushed for 197 yards on 24 carries in that game as Malakoff racked up 352 yards on the ground ... Betts rushed for 87 yards to lead Kerens in last year’s loss .. Betts ran for 122 yards on four carries in Kerens’ 54-0 win against Dawson last week ... Gould caught a TD pass dn also retuned an interception for a TD last week ... Damontes Dowell ran for two touchdowns, threw a TD pass and returned a kickoff for a TD in Malakoff’s 67-15 win over Italy last week ... the Tigers have scored 123 points in two games.
— Mike Phillips