The Smiths Station-Central rivalry is simply known as the “Backyard Brawl,” and it doesn’t take long to realize why the annual meeting is so important between the two schools that are separated by less than five miles.
Quite literally, sometimes the rivalry is an actual backyard brawl.
“Some families around here are even split,” Smiths Station head coach Adam Fossett said. “Half of a family might go to Smiths, while the other half goes to Central, so it sets up for an interesting situation.”
The 25th edition of the brawl will take place Friday night at Panther Stadium where Central looks to make it eight in a row against Smiths Station while the Panthers look to rebound after two tough losses.
While Fossett knows the importance of the rivalry, the first-year head coach wants to get back to basics this week in order to get back on track.
“For us, it is important to fix us this week,” Fossett said. “We can’t really worry about a bunch of other things, we got to fix the things we do. We got to focus on some of the fundamentals that we have lacked the past two weeks.”
Over the past two weeks, Smiths Station has played stiff competition in Jeff Davis and R.E. Lee. Fossett believes that his team showed promise but needs to put it all together in order to play a full game.
“In the previous two games, we have had good showings, especially in the first half,” added Fossett. “Last week, we entered the half down just 13-7 to Lee and were playing pretty solid football. And then, we came out in the second and were flat. We had no energy. We forgot what we were doing and panicked.”
Seniors Justin Brown and Joe Lewis echo Fossett and know preparation begins at practice.
“As an offensive unit, we have to work harder,” said Lewis, who is leading the team in rushing. “We got to focus as one unit and if we do that, I believe we can be very successful.”
“We have to try to maintain the intensity that we bring to practice to the game,” Brown said. “This is our biggest game of the season and we have to prove our doubters wrong and show them we can beat Central.”
It isn’t going to be easy for the Panthers. Central has scored 78 points in its last two games, including a 42-14 against Auburn and has one of the top offenses in the state.
“They throw a lot at you on offense, and they execute very well,” added Fossett. “But we have to concentrate on the things we can control, like tackling and maintaining our assignments on both sides of the ball.”
Smiths Station does have home-field advantage and Fossett thinks it will be a big advantage on Friday.
“This is a big game and the atmosphere is going to be exciting, but we can’t forget that we have to be the ones who bring that excitement,” he said. “We have a community that is fully behind us that will be there, our student section, The Jungle, will be there early and will pack out the place. So as far as the noise, it should be a good situation for us to have that in our favor.”