The Pisgah-Section football rivalry has always been about bragging rights and community pride.
Those things remain in play with the teams set for their latest meeting Friday night.
But stakes are much higher this year with playoff implications are on the line.
Both teams control their postseason destiny, as Section can lock up its first playoff berth since 2007 with a victory while Pisgah can stay in the hunt for the region’s No. 3-seed with a victory while a loss would set up a must-win game at Tanner next week for the region’s fourth seed.
“It’s already big just from the rivalry part,” said Section Head Coach Chris Hammon. “Now (that) it’s a region game, it’s even bigger.”
Section (4-3, 3-2) travels to Pisgah (2-5, 2-2) for a Class 2A Region 7 showdown Friday at 7 p.m. at Pisgah’s Sam Kenimer Stadium.
It’s the 40th all-time meeting in a series that Pisgah leads 28-11. The teams have split the last two meetings, each winning on their home field.
Pisgah won last year’s matchup 44-7, but Eagles head coach Luke Pruitt said it’s a much different Section team that his squad face a year ago.
“I think the biggest different is the mentality,” Pruitt said. “Coach Hammon has changed the mindset. They believe in what they’re doing.”
Meanwhile, Pisgah got a shot in the arm with last week’s comeback victory over Ider. The Eagles trailed 27-14 at halftime before winning 34-27 in overtime.
“That shows they’ve got a lot of grit,” Hammon said of the Eagles. “They’ve put themselves right there in position where they could be the three seed by winning their last two (region games). For us, we set a goal to make the playoffs, and we’ve got a chance to do something that hasn’t been done in 17 years. So it’s a big game for a lot reasons, a big game for both of us. There’s a lot on the line.”
Hammon said Section must “be fundamentally sound” in order to get the result it wants Friday night.
“(Pisgah is) a good football team that’s well-coached,” he said. “They play hard. We’ve got to protect the football and really block and tackle well.”
Pruitt echoed that sentiment for his team, saying that limiting big plays for Section on offense and special teams were a must.
“No. 6 (Dominik Blair), No. 4 (Jace Holcomb) and No. 23 (Drake McCutchen) are explosive players,” Pruitt said. “We can’t give up big plays but they’ve got guys that can do the distance.”
Pruitt said the Eagles needed to carry over their second-half effort into this week’s clash with the Lions.
“I was really proud of the way the kids just kept playing Pruitt said. “That’s what we’ve got to do (against Section).”