The latest edition of the Crosstown Showdown between Abilene High and Cooper has an unfamiliar feeling as we approach Friday's renewal of the bitter rivalry, but that same fire to earn bragging rights for the next calendar year.
Defending district 2-5A champ, Abilene High (1-4, 1-2), has just win in the first half of its season. A 54-14 drubbing at Shotwell Stadium on September 13th. A very unlikely start for a team that's become accustomed to great success every season, the Eagles are now fighting to keep their postseason hopes alive.
"You gotta stay positive. You gotta stay the course," Abilene High head coach Steve Warren said Tuesday.
For Cooper (3-2, 2-1) head coach Todd Moebes, his taste of Crosstown victory came as an assistant in 2010, under former coach Mike Spradlin.
In his third season as head coach of the Cougars, his goal is simple, treat Friday like any other regular-season game.
"You go prepare like a football game like every other one you've played this week. Hopefully you're continuing to move forward in your preparation," Moebes said.
"I mean, we can all grow as coaches, and as kids. As players and being able to study the game and study our opponents, we're certainly looking for that type of growth every single week and this one's no different. You gotta be better in your preparation this week and better in your preparation the next week."
Moebes will lead his team onto the turf at Shotwell with a sense of rhythm. After dropping its district-opener on the road at Midland Lee, Cooper beat Amarillo Tascosa and then rallied to beat Odessa High in a delay-filled game last Friday.
Again, his outlook on Friday is simple.
"It's a district game. We have an extremely tough district and we've got to treat it as a district football game," Moebes said. "You gotta prepare your guys to go out and play and go out to compete and win."
The season stats can be misleading for Abilene High. Their offensive production is down, not because they lack the tools, but because they have a knack for turning the ball over at some of the most inopportune times.
"Things haven't fallen our way. We've put the ball on the ground way too much. We've given the other team way too many opportunities. And at some point in time when we stop doing that, on a consistent basis, then we'll start winning," Warren said.
Any deep-rooted rivalry can be a momentum changer for any given season. When both teams step on the field Friday, all bets are off.
"They're (Abilene High) very sound defensively, always have been," said Moebes. "They're defensive line are some of the greatest D-linemen around. They have some very skilled players that are certainly matchup problems for everybody."
Cooper's Trey Dye, among many players, has Steve Warren's attention.
"The thing that he (Dye) does, he takes pressure off of Lorenzo (Joe). He's a good football player as well. They'll hand it to him, throw it to him, get the ball to him in space. Which they should do with a great football player like that. He's another one you gotta keep your eyes on," Warren said.
Cooper will be the home team on Friday against Abilene High. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. While the Eagles have dominated this rivalry over the last decade, Cooper owns the overall record, which stands at 30-21-1.