CHRIS MOORE — Madness: Noun – A state of frenzied or chaotic activity
We are midway through the madness. Students and teachers from Port Neches-Groves and Nederland independent school districts dress up and celebrate as we plow on towards the 97th contest in the 95-year-old rivalry between the two.
While the schedule is a little different than years past, the (friendly) bad blood and the stakes remain. This year, the two teams are opening district play against one another in the Bum Phillips Bowl instead of closing the regular season with the matchup after moving to District 12-5A Division II this year.
Over the last decade, the games have largely been competitive with 7-of-10 finishing within one score. In that span, Nederland won seven games, but PNG has won the last two. The overall Mid County Madness record stands 51-38-7 in favor of PNG, but since the introduction of the Bum Phillips Bowl trophy, the record is tied at 3-3.
Coaches for both teams said while they try to practice and prepare as though it is any other week, they are aware this game holds more significance for the players than the other games on the schedule.
Players have to navigate participating in all of the festivities that any student of their respective districts would, while being mentally prepared to play on Friday.
In some of the recent bouts between the teams, at least a share of the district title has been on the line. While neither team can lock up district Friday, one team can solidify its place in the district with a win and, perhaps equally satisfying, dump a rival into the loss column to begin district play.
Admittedly, the two meeting at the end of the season was perfect. It usually allowed the teams to either play for the district title or for one team a chance to play the role of wet blanket.
While the late October air isn’t quite as crisp as the November chill, in which the recent contests have been played, you wouldn’t be able to tell watching each team practice with the same intensity and focus. During these practices, the players run a little harder. The hits have a little more pop. The seniors are a little more vocal towards the underclassmen about being focused and sharp. The attention to detail is important and everyone wearing a jersey and a whistle knows it.
The stands will still be packed (at 50-percent capacity) with fans adorned in their purple and white or black and gold.
The Bum Phillips Bowl trophy will still be awarded to the victors, vaulting them towards the front of the district title race, while the other team picks up the pieces and looks for a way to rejuvenate the rest of their season.
Whatever happens between the lines in Nederland Friday night, recent history says it is sure to be one thing — madness.
Chris Moore is the sports editor for Port Arthur Newsmedia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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