When Vinemont takes the field against Good Hope on Friday night, the rivalry matchup will extend far beyond county pride and homecoming festivities for the Eagles.
For coach Alan Scott, his 13 seniors and the rest of Vinemont’s football squad, they’ll be fighting for their playoff lives when they welcome the Raiders into Eagle Stadium for a pivotal game within the Class 3A, Region 7 standings.
The Eagles currently sit at 3-3 on the season with a 2-2 mark in region play. Meanwhile, the Raiders sport a 4-2 record, including a 3-1 region tally, which currently puts them in a four-way tie with Hanceville, Hamilton and Winfield for first place.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of implications here with the playoffs,” Scott said. “Our guys have to play it one at a time. You can't get too caught up in trying to overhype one particular matchup. But, it's obviously a very important game for us.”
There’s a wealth of history and commonalities between the two programs as they prepare to meet for the 44th time overall.
Both schools were founded in 1970, while both sport identical team colors — Red and White. Even Scott — who’s in his third year at the helm of the Eagles — is a Good Hope alumnus.
“The Good Hope-Vinemont game is one that fans on both sides look forward to every year,” Scott said. “The two schools have a lot of ties. With the way the region format sets up now, we don't get too many county games. It adds a little extra to it.”
While the Raiders are 28-15 all-time over their county rivals, the Eagles have come out on top the past two games — a 33-12 win last season and a 33-0 shutout back in 2009.
If Vinemont hopes to make it three in a row on Friday evening, it’ll have to find some way to limit the production of Good Hope’s Sebastion Fendley and Jared McClure, both of whom are terrific playmakers who require strict attention from opposing defenses.
In his first start since suffering a broken left forearm against Winston County, Fendley collected 270 total yards and accounted for two scores in a 49-21 homecoming win over Danville. McClure threw in 146 rushing yards and five touchdowns of his own.
“When you watch them on film, it’s obvious Sebastion is one of their leaders. McClure, too,” Scott said. “They’re a well-coached, solid football team with big-play potential. Anytime you gameplan for them, you have to include those two players.”
Although Scott wouldn’t go as far to call the game a “must-win” for his team, he and the majority of his players know that a loss will all but doom any chance of a return to the playoffs.
Senior offensive lineman and outside linebacker Josh Chambers said he feels good about where his team is at, especially after last week’s gritty performance against Hamilton — a 19-7 loss at the hands of the Aggies.
“It's a big game for us,” Chambers said. “I feel like we can win. We've got a good plan. I think last week raised the team’s spirit. If we win this one, we can definitely win the rest of them as well.”
Added senior Garrett Sipe: “We are going out there to win. We just have to keep our head on our shoulders and not do anything stupid. We have to have excellent communication and play hard.”
It goes without saying Region 7 remains one of the most tightly contested regions heading toward the final weeks of the season.
Even though their backs are up against the wall, Scott’s team isn’t pressing the panic button just yet. In fact, the head coach was adamant that if they go out and take care of business with their final three remaining region opponents, everything else will sort itself out when all is said and done.
“Every year, it always pans out,” he said. “You've got to take care of yourself. We've got to do our part. If we take care of our end, we don't have to worry about what other people do.
“If you start losing games, then you're having to count on other teams losing and falling back to you. And that's just not a good situation.”
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.