ELKHART, Ind. (WNDU) - Friday is the first day of high school football in Indiana, and it's also the final game of one of the area's historic rivalries.
“As far as rivalries are concerned, this is one of the better rivalries that I have been associated with over the years,” Elkhart Memorial head coach Scot Shaw said.
But not before one last Battle for the Mangy Lion.
“That's a huge game,” Elkhart Central head coach Josh Shattuck said. “Part of me is jealous that I have to coach in it instead of watch it in the stands or come to it, because it's a spectacle.”
The rivalry between Elkhart Memorial and Elkhart Central dates back to 1972, when Elkhart High split.
The Blazers and Chargers have met ever since and have opened the season against each other since 2001.
“I’m sure there will be people in the stands at the Mangy that were at the very first rivalry game and will be at the very last rivalry game,” Shaw said.
The winner gets to keep the Mangy Lion trophy for the school's final year.
The Chargers are full of confidence.
“I should try my best,” Elkhart Memorial senior offensive tackle Drew Schulz said. “I should lead my linemen. I should lead them because we should do our best no matter what the circumstance.”
“We are so excited for the Mangy game,” Elkhart Memorial senior quarterback Tyler Lehner said. “I don't think we've ever been more prepared for a football game to be completely honest. We’re a really good looking team this year and we're excited to go across town and give them all we got.”
The Blazers are just as fired up
“Win,” Elkhart Central senior halfback Bobby Kiefer said. “That's all I got to say about that.”
“I think it's going to be an exciting game but Blazers on top,” Elkhart Central senior lineman Sean Holman said.
Both coaches understand the historic nature of their season opener.
“We'll be ready,” Shattuck said. “We know that memorial will be ready. We think that they're going to have a really, really good team. We're going to have to play our best to have a chance to win.”
“We have an interest in this because it's the next game and because it is the Mangy and we'd like to get the last one,” Shaw said.
The final Battle for the Mangy Lion is Friday night at Rice Field in Elkhart at 7 p.m.