MT. VERNON —
Any time sports teams from Mt. Vernon and Centralia clash, it's a must win for the athletes on each side.
The rivalry spans decades and includes hundreds of competitions.
Friday, when the Rams football team makes the 30-minute trek north to Evers Field in Centralia, there will be plenty at stake. It's not just simply the intensity of two rival schools.
The chances for Mt. Vernon to score a critical fifth win of the season and become playoff eligible are dwindling. Mt. Vernon got its fourth victory in a second-half comeback homecoming night against Carbondale. A week ago, the Rams had their first shot to get to five wins, but Cahokia proved too formidable for the Rams.
Cahokia behind big play touchdowns ripped off 45 points on Mt. Vernon and took away a win.
A loss to Centralia means the Rams will have to win in the final week of the season against an unbeaten Mt. Carmel team in J.D. Shields Memorial Stadium.
The game is just as important for Centralia. The Orphans enter the game with a 4-3 record as well and have been on a bit of slide in South Seven Conference play.
The Orphans have lost their last three games after a conference opening win against Althoff. Centralia's defense has been gouged for 146 points during the span and twice teams have raced past the half a hundred mark. The Orphans wrap up their season with a matchup against Mascoutah.
Tonight's game also marks the first time in several years the game has had playoff implications for both teams. The last two seasons, the Rams entered the game already eliminated from the postseason and trying to play the role of spoiler against a streaking Centralia squad.
This time both teams are aiming at the same goal – the postseason. For any fans of football, sports in general and especially the storied rivalry, that should be exciting.
A Mt. Vernon-Centralia matchup never needs anything extra, but it's always a little more intriguing when so much is at stake.
Paul Hines is the sports editor at theRegister-News.