When the Beech Buccaneers and Hendersonville Commandos take the field Friday night at Paul Decker Field, they will be playing for more than a non-region football game victory. They will be playing for all those that came before them, community pride and most importantly; bragging rights.
The Commandos lead the all-time series 19-12 and have won three of the last five contests against the Bucs. However, since current Beech coach Anthony Crabtree has taken over the program on Shackle Island, the Buccaneers are 7-5 in his 12 games against Hendersonville during his tenure.
"I think the biggest difference is we've won some," Crabtree said when asked how the rivalry has changed over the years. "There were several years where Beech didn't have a chance to beat Hendersonville. When I came here we beat them five years straight and I think that intensified the rivalry a little bit. In order for it to be a rivalry, both teams have to win at some point, and I think that's happened more in the last 12 years than before."
Hendersonville head coach Bruce Hatfield is a legend in his own right. A coach that has been a part of the Hendersonville/Beech rivalry for the last 25 years, Hatfield spoke to what this game means to his team and this season.
"When I first started here in '93, I didn't understand it as a young coach," he said. "This has always been a good, respectful rivalry because we have a lot of admiration for coach Crabtree and what he has done. Usually, this is the type of game that lets us know exactly where our football team stands and what kind of season we will have."
If you cannot make it to the game Friday night at Hendersonville, fans will have the option to watch the game on television, as it will be broadcasted as the MyTV30 Game of the Week.
"I like to think we will have a big crowd on hand," Hatfield said. "I know you can watch the game from your comfort of your own home, but there is nothing like being at the stadium on a Friday night for a high school game. Both teams have played in these types of games enough that being on TV should not affect either team."
Crabtree echoed Hatfield's comments, saying he expects the biggest crowd of the year.
"Big crowd like always," he added. "It's always the biggest the crowd of the year unless you're in the third or fourth round of the playoffs. The only difference being on TV is the media timeouts, having to wait for them before you can come back out to play. Other than that, it's just a regular football game."
The two teams play in separate regions, so it's hard to determine if this game will be the biggest game of the season. Hendersonville competes in 6A, while the Bucs compete in 5A, and when asked, both coaches had a slightly different answer.
"It certainly helps make your season if you win it," Hatfield stated. "Last year we had a couple 1-point losses and that affects the psyche of your team. The thing that is so appealing about this game is that it will be a tough ball game; this game tells a lot about your team."
"This is not the biggest game on the schedule," Crabtree added. "That's not even close. It's hard for a non-region game to be the biggest game on your schedule. It's a little bit irrelevant when it comes to the playoffs and winning your region. If there is a tie at the end of the season and you go off overall record and we lose, then it could hurt us; outside of that, it's a significant game to stay undefeated. We are playing for community bragging rights and that's a big deal."
Defensively, both units have their work cut out for them. Both offenses are coming off great performances on the field, and both coaches realize someone is going to have to get a stop if they want any chance at winning the football game.
"We just got to try and slow them down if you can," Hatfield said. "Don't let them control the ball and the clock. That is easier said than done, their staff does such a great job. I think we've improved on defense - you want to do well against good squads and this game will show just how much we've improved."
"Hendersonville will always be fundamentally sound, physical, and get to the right spots," Crabtree added. "Athletically, the will be tough for us to defend and their defense will give our offense problems moving the football. We just have to stick to our guns and do what we do."
Even though a strong rivalry exists between the players and fans, both coaches admit they have a ton of admiration for one another.
"This game is just football, nothing more," Hatfield stated. "We will visit pregame because the respect factor is there. It's always fun to see him and talk with coach Crabtree."
The respect was mutual on Crabtree's end as well, as he was very short in his answer of whether the rivalry extends between coaches.
"No! Absolutely not," he said.
Keys to Victory
"They are the same as they are every week," Hatfield added. "Composure, toughness, tackling, get out there and have a will to compete."
"We just have to stick to our guns and do what we do and make sure we don't turn the football over," Crabtree said. "Zero negative plays, and if we can get some big plays in the kicking game, that will be important. Defensively, we just want to keep making them snap it and not give up the big play. Hendersonville has a lot of athleticism on the offensive side of the football."
A win for either program will likely ensure players and coaches get treated a little bit differently. Handshakes get a little firmer and smiles get a bit bigger if you take down your cross-town rival.
"I'd say probably treated a little different if you win," Crabtree said. "When the school first opened, Hendersonville owned Beech so I think the people that played during that era are excited to see Beech get a win over Hendersonville."
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at Hendersonville High School.