Don Jacobs was shaking hands during a time of fellowship at church Sunday morning when he was served a reminder.
“Guy shook my hand and said ‘Coach, you know its North Jackson week now,’” Jacobs said with a laugh. “Right in the middle of church. It’s big now.”
One of the state’s most intense rivalries writes another chapter Friday night when Scottsboro hosts North Jackson in the Battle of the Valley.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Scottsboro’s Trammell Stadium.
It’s the 32nd meeting between the teams in a series played every year since Bridgeport and Stevenson high schools consolidated to form North Jackson High School in 1988.
North Jackson leads the series 21-10, but Scottsboro has won four of the last six meetings. North Jackson, which won last year’s meeting 56-3, is looking for its first road win in the series since 2011.
As Jacobs prepares to coach in his third Battle of the Valley — Jacobs is 1-1 in the series — first-year North Jackson head coach Chandler Tygard is set to make his Battle of the Valley debut. It’s a rivalry he heard about early in his tenure at North Jackson and one he’s heard about often since his hiring in March.
“It’s a big deal and we put a lot of emphasis on it,” Tygard said. “Rivalries are one of the best parts of high school football. Every school needs a rival. It’s great for the school. The kids are dressing up everyday (for Spirit Week), having fun. It’s good stuff.”
Scottsboro (3-1) and North Jackson (1-3) enter the game in differing situations.
The Wildcats have won three straight since a season-opening loss to Fort Payne. Meanwhile, North Jackson is looking to bounce back after losing its second one-point game of the season a week ago to St. John Paul II.
Tygard said the rivalry week has been good for his team.
“They’ve been a little more locked in than they have in the past,” he said. “We’ve kind of been on a rollercoaster of emotions. We’re teaching mental toughness. High school football is about learning to ride the wave of momentum. When we make a big play, we’re going to be jacked up and having fun. When they make a big play, we can’t drop our heads. We’ve got to play the next play. When we’ve played loose, we’ve had success. When we’ve felt the pressure, we haven’t. The pressure is not on us. The pressure is on Scottsboro. People are saying they’re going to kill us. Just go let it rip and see what happens.”
Jacobs said Scottsboro can’t focus on whose favored or who is the underdog, saying instead it must focus on its performance.
“We’ve got to do what we’re supposed to do,” Jacobs said. “If we’ll go play Scottsboro football, hang on to the ball, pick up the tough yards, play good defense and perform in the kicking game — big plays in the kicking game have had an impact the last two years — then hopefully we’ll be there in the fourth quarter with a chance to win.”
Jacobs said the North Jackson spread offense, which has scored 99 points the past two games, poses opposing defenses problems.
“They spread you out all over the field,” Jacobs said. “They’ve got two quarterbacks that can do the same things. They never leave the field, just line up in different positions. So a run can become a pass. They’re both good quarterbacks. We’ve got to know where they’re both at. We’ve got to get after the quarterback. We can’t let them sit back there and get in a rhythm.”
Tygard said North Jackson’s defense must prevent Scottsboro from controlling the football.
“They’re well-coached and do what they’re expected to do,” Tygard said. “They’re not real fancy. They’re a ball-control offense that doesn’t hide what they do. They line up and come at you and try to out-physical you. That’s their strength and that’s what you have to stop.”
Both coaches want their players to play with emotion without letting those emotions get the best of them.
“It’s exciting. Everybody knows it’s a big one,” said Jacobs, who is one win shy of 100 career head coaching victories. “You can feel that feeling, that buzz, in the stadium. But you’ve still got to line down and go play.”