One last time.
While it will be the 55th meeting between Russell and Raceland in the Rail Cities Bowl, tonight’s game will be the last between the teams in the foreseeable future.
Both teams have decided to call off the series and have already moved on to schedule different opponents in that spot on the schedule.
With the series coming to an end, many think the preparation and anticipation would be high for the teams. But, according to Raceland coach T.J. Maynard, preparation has been nothing short of normal.
“It’s just another rivalry game,” Maynard said. “They’ve come to work every day this week...It’s another ballgame. It’s another last game of the (regular) season. It’s important to the kids and they’ve approached it that way.”
Russell has the overall series advantage with a 28-19-7 record.
But for the past four seasons the Rams have dominated the Rail Cities Bowl, including last year’s 36-21 home win.
“We have to find some way to stop them because it is difficult to stop them,” Russell coach Ivan McGlone said of his team’s strategy. “We didn’t do a good job the past few years so we have to be prepared to stop what they do offensively.”
Last season’s game is still fresh in McGlone’s mind, especially all the mistakes and misplays that cost his team points.
“The last couple of years we would just make mistakes on the offensive side of the ball against them,” McGlone said. “Defensively they had two onside kicks they got back and they completed a pass on fourth down from a punt formation and there were a couple of times where we stopped a yard short.
“We normally take care of those mistakes, but when you don’t, you get hurt.”
Raceland’s ability to run and pass puts pressure on opponents.
The Rams’ running game focus has been on Zack Litteral (746 yards) and Daylin Beach (713 yards). Raceland quarterback Adam Elkins has thrown for 1,235 yards and 17 touchdowns in eight games.
But McGlone points out while they have a lot of skill players, it all starts up front for the Rams.
“That’s what they do, they like to spread you out,” McGlone said. “They like to spread you out and run the ball, then they like to get the ball to their skilled wide receivers. It all starts with their strength up front, then they can get it to their skill players to score.”
Last week against Paintsville, Beach, Elkins and team leader in catches Rodney Vance all sat out.
All three will play tonight and Maynard said all three could have played against Paintsville. It’s just a matter of resting the weary.
“All three would have been playing if it was the last game or had playoff implications,” Maynard said. “Everyone is kind of banged up so we have to keep our postseason goals in mind and rest up while, at the same time, it sets up other guys to have opportunity to see what they can do.”
While Raceland’s offense has been the story this season, it’s been up to the defense to keep them in the game.
And after years of knowing they have to stop the run when they play Russell, Maynard knows the importance of new Red Devils quarterback Lance Evans.
“He’s given them the option to throw the ball down the field,” Maynard said. “We have to be prepared to come up and stop the run, but with his arm and he has the capabilities to stop that now.”
In 2007 the two teams decided to rekindle a rivalry that had been stagnant since 1974. And tonight the rivalry will be stagnant once again.
But for Maynard, a former Red Devil who played under McGlone from 1984-87, the past six years have been a privilege for him to matchup against his old coach.
“I have upmost respect for Ivan McGlone,” Maynard said. “He demands respect and these games have been a chance match wits with one of the game’s best. It’s a one-game stretch you want to beat him; the rest of the year you root like heck for him.”
KYLE HOBSTETTER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2658.