Holcomb Boatfield

Pisgah’s Mason Holcomb (3) tries to escape NSM defensive lineman Tanner Boatfield during the Teams’ Game last season. The rivals meet for the 51st time when Pisgah visits NSM on Friday.

Coaches know that every game is important. But no matter how hard they want to treat each the same, sometimes, it’s just impossible.

Such is the case this week as North Sand Mountain and Pisgah get set to write another chapter in Jackson County’s longest current running high school football series.

“These games are one’s you’ll always remember, one’s you talk about with your family during Christmas and Thanksgiving for years,” said Pisgah head coach Luke Pruitt. “If you can’t get ready to play your neighbor, something’s wrong.”

It’s the 51st meeting between the Bison and Eagles, who have played every season since 1975. Pisgah leads the series 33-17, but NSM has won the last four meetings, its longest win streak in series history.

Friday’s game kicks off at 7 p.m. at NSM’s Lloyd Dobbins Field in Higdon.

Along with bragging rights, this year’s matchup also includes major region implications for Pisgah (2-3, 1-1) and NSM (2-3, 1-2).

“It’s got added meaning to it when you look at the closeness (of the schools), how many times we’ve played and the ties between the programs,” said NSM head coach Keith Kirby. “It’s obviously a big rivalry game but it’s also got some pretty severe region implications as well. We don’t want a third region loss and they don’t want their second. So there is (a lot of motivation) on both sides.”

Both teams enter the matchup after posting non-region wins a week ago. 

NSM went on the road and defeated Cedar Bluff 22-6 while Pisgah downed DAR 58-28.

After back-to-back weeks posting 56 and 58 points, Pisgah is now third in Class 2A in scoring average at 43.6 points per game.

“The amount of points they’re scoring gets your attention,” Kirby said. They’ve got a multitude of weapons at every skill spot. They’ve got a real good football team and are a few things going their way from being undefeated.”

Meanwhile, NSM’s defense has allowed just 16.8 points per game over its last four outings, with the Bison holding teams to two or fewer touchdowns in three of those contests. Kirby said NSM must continue to “limit the explosive plays” as it has the past two weeks after allowing several against Section.

“Their defense is really good,” Pruitt said of NSM. “They held everybody they’ve played just about to one or two scores. They play hard and have had some breaks go against them. To me it’s going to be a line of scrimmage game. That’s going to be the difference.”

Offensively, NSM has featured a more run-heavy attack this season, and Pruitt said preventing the Bison from chewing up yardage and time is imperative for Pisgah’s defense.

“We’ve got to keep contain No. 5 (NSM quarterback Derek Bearden) and those guys and keep them keeping it away from us,” Pruitt said. 

The winner takes a major step forward in their pursuit of a playoff berth. 

“With everything (at stake),” Pruitt said, “it’s going to be a dog fight.”

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