In what is surely a tension-filled week of trying to figure out how to stop a local dynasty, Rodney Pruett found the time for a little levity.
Asked about playing Reynolds in the Western Mountain Athletic Conference opener – probably for the 100th time – Pruett cracked, “Oh, yeah. That’s this Friday, right?”
Erwin’s head coach is accurate about the date – Friday night at 7:30 p.m., what many consider as the game that will decide a league title will kick off at what will surely be an overflow crowd at Kerr Stadium, home of the Warriors.
Pruett may want to use some of that humor to lessen the pressure on his players, who realize how important it is to beat the Rockets.
Reynolds (2-1), ranked second in the WNC/WLOS.com Top 10 Poll, has dominated WNC football over the past three-plus seasons.
The Rockets have won 34 straight games against WNC opponents and 26 consecutive games against conference schools – 24 in a row in regular-season play and a pair of playoff wins vs. Erwin.
The fourth-ranked Warriors (2-0) also are on a much more modest streak – their eight straight regular-season wins over the past two seasons is WNC’s longest.
While Pruett turned serious and talked about the importance of Friday’s game, he also recognizes it is but the first of an eight-game WMAC schedule.
And he believes his players already have that in perspective, despite everyone telling them how important it is to beat Reynolds.
“I know everyone is looking forward to this one, but I think teenage males today don’t look at things the way a lot of other people do,” said Pruett, who is 8-5 early in his second season as the Warriors’ head coach.
“We know a lot’s at stake and that the winner will be in the driver’s seat (for the conference title), but I don’t think my guys feel any extra pressure.
“They take the approach that they want to be 1-0 after every Friday night, and that’s how we will approach this one as well.”
Reynolds coach Shane Laws, who hasn’t lost to a local opponent since midway through the 2014 season, is also reminding his players of the bigger – and longer range – picture.
“We’re used to playing in big games, but so is Erwin,” said Laws, who is 114-37 in his 12th season with the Rockets.
“We have all the respect for Erwin, but we also know this is just one ball game. Our goal is the conference championship, so whether that’s undefeated or with three losses, we just love to win.
“We know this game is important, and I’m sure we will be ready.”
The battle could come down to who gets the superior quarterback play from two of WNC’s best players.
Erwin’s Kendrick Weaver has 780 yards of total offense and has produced 10 touchdowns in two games.
“We expected Kendrick to play great, but he has exceeded even our expectations,” said Pruett. “He’s also getting a lot of help from his teammates who are also very talented.”
Alex Flinn of Reynolds, coming off a season in which he threw for 3,972 yards and 40 TDs, has helped the Rockets to a 16-3 record the past two seasons.
“Alex has played really well (in wins against Shelby and Owen), and we expect him to play well against Erwin.”
Reynolds has won the past five meetings vs. the Warriors, averaging 46 points a game.
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