Both teams lost nearly 20 seniors from last year's playoff squads. Both struggled with inexperience last week.
But those things don't matter this week.
The 378 War will be rejoined this Friday at Tiger Field in Washington when the visiting Red Devils try to even the series for only the second time in its 85-year history.
This game is often considered one of the biggest and fiercest rivalry games in the Peach State. The matchup makes the top 10 games of the year on many lists.
But let's cut to the meat here -- two proud communities, two proud state-title-winning football programs, two teams often having cousins on the other squad. And while for more than 364 days a year each town would do anything it could to help the other in an emergency -- for a few hours on a Friday night in the fall -- we just don't like them!
The outcome of the last three meetings were surprises. Last year at Buddy Bufford Field, the Tigers keep the Devils out of the endzone, getting their winning field goal after a Devil fumble. The lost was the only blemish on the Devils 14-1 Class A title season. Our Devils have won 14 since then. The win put the Tigers ahead in the series 32-31-6. Lincolnton has never led in the series.
In 2005, the regular season was highlighted by the Devils marching into Tiger Field 27 points underdogs, and coming out 20-13 winners. The two teams met again in the Class A finals at The Bud, in a matchup we now call simply THE Game. Before 6,500, our Devils left no doubt with a 25-0 win.
The very first game between the two schools back in 1922 was a tie, and that was somehow fitting.
Like our Devils, the Tigers lost most of their "hands" players among 19 graduates. One report has W-W starting freshmen in many key positions. Tiger coach Russell Morgan (34-15-1 after 4 years) commented that this is the youngest Tiger team in nearly two decades, with only 5 seniors on the roster.
They may be young, but some of them are also big. Most of the offensive line returns: 330-pound Tyrece Ashmore, 250-pound Tyance Ashmore, and Brandon Howard and Larry Raiford, both 245. The best player may be Dan Wylie, a 6-1, 255-pound college prospect on the line.
No big names. No titles on the line. No big hype. Just football against your neighbors. That's how it started in 1922, and that's how The 378 War is in 2007!