It was more than five days to game day and Seymour running back Colin Greathouse could barely contain the anticipation in his voice.
“Oh man, we’re already excited,” he said of Friday night’s looming showdown football game against Brownstown Central. “It’s rivalry week.”
Whether it is high school football or another sport, almost every team has a special opponent on the schedule, one that stands out, pretty much blinking in neon lights as different from the other black and white type.
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This year, the Jackson Bowl shapes up as an even struggle, potentially a game that will pack more than the average amount of scoring into four quarters and with both Greathouse’s Owls and Brownstown’s Braves solid believers that they will be the chosen ones this year.
Seymour (3-2) has won three games in a row. Brownstown, coming off a 55-22 thumping of North Harrison, is 3-1.
Brownstown won 34-28 last year, giving the Braves a 7-6 series lead since the annual meeting resumed in 2007 following a 36-year hiatus. Previously, the schools, located about 10 miles apart, played each fall between 1966 and 1971 with Seymour winning all six.
The recent history has been a coin toss for predicting and has been characterized more by an era of even results, games played out in a festive atmosphere in crowded stadiums with players soaking up in the vibes during a weeklong countdown to kickoff and on game night.
“Usually, the atmosphere is crazy,” Greathouse said. “People are blowing horns. People have to be held back. I love when we play Brownstown.”
Sometimes at school, a student will dress in an Owl costume and parade through the hallways, Greathouse said, an illustration that some individuals have larger wardrobes than others.
The Owls have been pecking opponents to death in recent weeks, superbly mixing passing and running plays, relying on a smooth-functioning offensive line and a defense that has not allowed more than a touchdown per game for three straight weeks.
The stretch followed a sketchy start where mistakes were costly and losses resulted.
“I wish we could get those first two back,” Seymour quarterback Cody Ruble said.
He said some players on each team know one another and occasionally run into one another since the communities are so close together. This may be a special week provoking extra fan excitement, but he won’t prepare any differently.
“But that doesn’t mean the game feels the same,” Ruble said.
There is one major way this year’s game may not feel like other years’ Jackson Bowls: Coronavirus restrictions capping crowd size and requiring social distance seating inside Blevins Memorial Stadium.
What would ordinarily likely be a standing-room-only crowd can’t be due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Usually, when the game starts, I don’t really hear the fans,” Greathouse said. “For Brownstown, there are so many people screaming, you hear it.”
Still, for the regular season, the game stands out as a big one.
“This is like the biggest game of the regular season,” Greathouse said. “This is our sectional game before the sectional.”
Coach Tyson Moore agrees with that perspective. The team may be on a high and turned in a superior performance in handling Bedford North Lawrence last week, but when two teams with a history meet, anything goes.
“You never know with a rivalry game,” Moore said. “Everything goes out the window. It’s a hard one to prepare for. It’s all going to come down to who keeps their composure and who takes care of the football.”
In reality, that observation basically applies to any game where the teams figure to be evenly matched. Maybe an Owl suit can be a secret weapon, a magic talisman for Seymour.
“I don’t have one I can bring out,” Moore said, “but if anyone does, more power to them.”