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Bragging rights on the line

Rivalries are part of what makes sports great and when it comes to Chilton County, the rivalry between Jemison High School and Chilton County High School is near the top of the list.

The two schools compete for bragging rights in multiple sports throughout the year, but the intensity gets turned up a notch when it comes to football.

“It’s one that everybody gets into,” Chilton County head coach Tal Morrison said. “It’s like Alabama and Auburn of Chilton County.”

The Tigers have won the last three meetings on the gridiron, and depending on which fan base you ask that streak will either continue or come to an abrupt end.

Both teams showed signs of their potential despite coming up short in their season openers on Aug. 25.

Jemison’s defense looked quite strong holding Bibb County to 14 points, while the Chilton County offense looked in sync at various moments against Sylacauga.

“We’ve stressed a lot in the offseason of pursuing and getting 11 guys to the football,” Jemison head coach Van Clements said. “I was proud of the guys for that.”

A couple of series late in the game made the difference in the outcomes of both contests. Because of this, the teams are viewing Thursday’s matchup as an opportunity to make a statement.

According to Morrison, he has seen a heightened mental focus from his players this week with the combination of the week one loss and the rivalry game.

“We’re trying to come off the loss, and we’re focused on correcting it,” Morrison said. “We can do a lot better than we showed.”

Though the game does not hold playoff implications, in the past the game has proven to be a springboard for success and can provide a team with the necessary momentum to make a run at the postseason.

Despite the loss a year ago, the Panthers were able to turn their season around after the Chilton County game and reeled off a string of wins to qualify for the playoffs.

“Your at a crossroads right now,” Clements said. “A lot of times whoever wins gets headed in a good direction, and even if you play well but lose it can still change the outcome of a season.”

Clements has been a part of the rivalry for quite some time as both a player at Jemison and now the head coach. He understands what a win would mean for every player that takes the field.

“For 365 days there are a lot of bragging rights.” Clements said. “It’s a good clean rivalry and always a good test early on to see where we’re at. I enjoy it.”

Both coach’s stress taking care of the football and eliminating turnovers on a daily basis. Those teachings especially come into play in wet conditions, which are expected in the game day forecast.

“In a sloppy game your at an advantage defensively because it can be a little tougher to hold on to the football,” Clements said. “We preach that if you get to the football, good things can happen. A turnover here or there could be a big difference.”