Tuesday, November 01, 2011

SPORTS >> Battle of unbeatens determines league title

Leader sportswriter

Two local rivals with unbeaten records squaring off during the last week of the regular season, with the winner claiming the conference championship outright – it’s a high-school football fan’s wildest fantasy come true.

And for Carlisle and Hazen, it is reality this week as the two teams prepare to settle the score at Hornet Field this Friday for the top spot in the 6-2A Conference.

The Bison (9-0, 6-0) took advantage of an early cancellation by Hughes and penciled in a tough McCrory team last Friday, beating the Jaguars 18-6.

The Hornets (8-0-1, 6-0) made a big statement of their own last week with a 32-7 blowout over England.

So who has the advantage? On paper, it would appear no one. Home-field advantage for the Hornets could be a consideration, but take into account the Bison have played just as well on the road as they have at home, and the short 9.5-mile distance from Carlisle to Hazen for fans to travel, and again, it’s a dead heat.

“It’s for the conference championship – and it’s two big rivals,” Carlisle coach Scott Waymire said. “You couldn’t ask for a better setting for a high-school football game. A lot of young men who play high-school football would love to be in these kids’ shoes right now to play in a game of this magnitude.”

Stopping the Hornets will mean stopping senior running back Matt Pennison, who has rushed for over 1,300 yards through nine games. The three-year starter for Hazen has also led the team in tackles for the past three seasons from his middle linebacker position defensively.

“He does a tremendous job on both sides of the ball,” Waymire said. “They have a few senior linemen also. It’s a good group. We have to find a way to slow those guys down.”

It’s not just the records that are similar, the margin of victory against the more competitive teams in the 6-2A are also close, with Hazen edging Carlisle slightly. The Hornets beat Des Arc 38-8 in week four, compared to Carlisle’s 28-8 victory over the Eagles in week seven. Hazen downed England 32-7 last week, while the Bison won 30-14 over the Lions back in week six.

“I think there are a lot of similarities,” Waymire said. “They probably had an easier time with England. But it doesn’t matter with records or anything else when it’s such a big rivalry like this one. Both teams will come prepared.”

The Bison got their money’s worth against McCrory last week after a number of games in which the outcome was decided long before the final horn.

The starters had to play four quarters on both sides of the ball, and the offense responded with a solid night of blocking for Carlisle’s stable of talented running backs.

Bo Weddle came up biggest for the Bison, scoring all three touchdowns as the Carlisle’s offense ran for over 300 yards against McCory’s defense.

Junior quarterback Chris Hart also had a big night as half of Carlisle’s quarterback combo along with senior Zac King. Hart converted a critical fourth-and-six play in the second half that led to the Bison’s go-ahead score.

“Overall, it was a great team effort,” Waymire said. “I was pleased. McCrory was good for our guys – we needed to play 48 minutes.”

Regardless of who wins or loses, it’s a dramatic close to a stellar season for both programs.

“It’s going to be a heck of an atmosphere,” Waymire said. “For anyone who’s never been to a Carlisle-Hazen game, it’s one of the best atmospheres for high-school football anywhere.