WEST COLUMBIA

Handling emotions will be key for the Battle of the Bernard as rivals Columbia and Sweeny add another chapter to the series.

“It’s a very intense rivalry, a great rivalry between two communities,” Columbia head football coach Brent Mascheck said. “It’s going to be a packed house and this is what high school football is all about.”

Mascheck knows emotions will run high in the game, but he’s concerned about his players’ ability to block out the noise and focus on the task at hand. The focus in practice this week was good as they try and avoid starting slow like in their first two games and straying away from mental mistakes.

“Defensively, we’ve had our share of mental mistakes and they’ve been challenged to be a dominating defense,” Mascheck said.

Running backs Jordan Woodard and Jamaurion Woodard have been a key part in the wing-T offense, combining for 375 yards on the ground and four touchdowns. The ‘Necks average 197.5 yards per game on the ground with the bevy of backs they use to move the chains, second in District 13-4A D-I.

With multiple options running the football, it opens up the passing game which Mascheck would like to hit bigger plays with.

Quarterback Cameron Ward and his receivers need to connect for more big plays in the passing game as they have opportunities set up because of the running game.

On special teams, the ‘Necks lost kicker Juan Rosas to a hamstring injury, but backup Garrett Irwin made all his field goals last game, keeping Columbia confident in their kicking game.

SWEENY

Sweeny head football coach Randy Lynch knows there will be a lot of emotions and hype before the game, but once the game starts, he believes his players will focus on the task at hand.

“We’re just trying to get better each and every day. We realize it’s a big game against Columbia, but we’re just trying to focus on us and getting better before district play,” Lynch said. “Once the game starts, our players will be more focused on the task at hand in the game.”

The Bulldogs rushing attack is led by Xavier Woods, who leads District 11-4A D-II in rushing with 235 yards and three touchdowns. Quarterback Trey Robbins is second in the district with 240 yards passing and a touchdown.

The Bulldogs add an experienced hand to their team as senior Justice Clemons returns.

Sweeny’s defense will have a lot on their plate in terms of containing the Roughneck ground game. Lynch has been preparing his team on executing their assignments and avoiding mental lapses in the game to keep the Roughnecks’ momentum at a standstill.

“We’ve been working on maintaining our blocks on offense and executing plays and avoiding mental mistakes,” Lynch said. “We had breakdowns defensively, not being in the right position (against Brazosport) and we need to get better.”

Columbia’s backs and linemen are physical and one of the top teams in the district. They close well on the ball on the back end on the defensive side of the ball and will be a big test for the young Bulldog squad, Lynch said.

The Battle of the Barnard has gone on for 66 years, with Columbia leading the all-time series 35-30-1, winning six of the last 10 meetings.

Sweeny won last year, 35-7, but both teams are looking to walk away from this game with bragging rights in the community.

The Bulldogs and the ’Necks meet on the turf at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Griggs Field.

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