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Game of the Week -- Plainville, La Crosse still a good matchup

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

This year marks the fourth season the La Crosse and Plainville High School football teams have met up since the matchup resumed following a five-year hiatus. While La Crosse has won at least 10 games in six of the last seven seasons, the rivalry has earned area and statewide interest based on Plainville's success.

In 2010, the two teams met in Week 9 as the Cardinals started to build and finished 3-6 with a loss to the Leopards. The next year, the teams met twice. In Week 9, it was a matchup of undefeated teams. A few weeks later, the squads met in one of the biggest games in recent area history in the Class 2-1A sub-state game.

"It was crazy," said La Crosse senior linebacker Marshall Jay, one of just two '11 starters left from either team. "A couple thousand fans in the stadium, everyone is around the fence. Really no other feeling like it."

La Crosse won again and finished 12-1, while Plainville went 10-2. In 2012, the squads met in Week 4 in what the fans voted as the state's top game on KPreps.com. The Leopards collected a 42-22 victory. The average margin of victory in the four games is 12.3 points.

This season, the teams meet Friday in La Crosse. The Leopards are 3-0 and ranked No. 2 in Class 2-1A, while Plainville has struggled at 1-2. While the game isn't receiving as much interest on the area or state level, it's still huge between the towns. As well, La Crosse coach Jon Webster and Plainville coach Joe Simon are longtime friends.

"It's still a very big game for our kids," Simon said. "Our kids enjoy playing them. They respect them and for me, it's always fun to get to coach against Coach Webster. We have got a great relationship.

"Coaching staff has got a great relationship, and it's a fun game for us to coach," he added. "It might not have had the hype that it has had in the past, but it will still be a fun game for us, and it will be a big test for us before we go into districts. Hopefully we can all stay healthy."

La Crosse and Plainville, separated by approximately 45 miles on Highway 183, see each other in Hays at the movies, at the mall and other social gatherings. La Crosse senior lineman Cody Lee said he has become good friends with several Cardinals through powerlifting meets. However, Lee said friendships are put aside for three hours Friday.

Webster said many La Crosse people do business in Plainville. He knows of one person who has worn a La Crosse shirt when he stops by the Plainville Quick Stop.

"He gets a hard time," Webster said. "It's bragging rights for the community, for the kids. It means a lot because of proximity."

Plainville, with a young and inexperienced group, has received a strong start from freshman Hayden Friend. In the first two weeks, he led the Cardinals with 14 carries for 195 yards and a TD, and senior Trevor Desaire tacked on 14 carries for 187 yards.

"A lot of people have seen him play in the past knew that he would come in and make an impact this year," Simon said. "He is very knowledgeable about the game, and he reads his blocks well, and he is going to be a very good player for us. He still makes freshmen mistakes, but he has got a bright future ahead of him."

Plainville opened the season with a 32-0 loss to Phillipsburg (3-0), a team that has allowed just six points all year. Then the Cardinals defeated Ellis 45-8 before a 28-8 loss to Norton last week. The Bluejays rushed for 396 yards.

"They pounded it between the tackles on us," Simon said. "At times, we looked pretty good and were able to stop them, and, at times, missed tackles."

Senior running back Cody Werner (head) likely will miss Friday's game, while senior tight end Chase Meitler, who hasn't played this season, could play Friday after he saw the doctor Tuesday. Even with the slow start, Plainville expects to be one of the top three teams in 2-1A, District 6 play.

"Our key is for us is that we have got to stay healthy, and we've got to keep improving," Simon said. "We've still got a very good shot of making the playoffs, and we've got to keep telling the kids not to get down, because it is basically preseason here, and we've got to get ready for districts."