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Kofa, Yuma High to face off
Kofa stormed into Doan Field in 2008, topping Yuma High on the Criminals' 100th anniversary celebration 20-10, eventually winning a city championship and making the playoffs.
Chance Hamilton and other current Criminal seniors were eighth-graders when that happened. And they don't know what a loss to their archrival feels like.
The Criminals look to run their winning streak over the Kings to four games when the teams square off Friday at Doan Field.
“I'm not really nervous or anything,” Hamilton said. “I feel that we are going to do the best we can and I feel we're going to win this game.”
The Criminals (2-7) lead the all-time series 28-23. Kofa (2-7) looks to tighten the series with a win tonight.
“Four years comes down to this,” Kofa running back and strong safety Michael Klakulak said. “If we win this game, everything is washed off. All these kids are going to remember is beating Yuma High on their senior night.”
The teams have fallen on tough times since the 2008 game. The following year, Yuma High finished 6-5 — the only winning record either team has posted in the past four years.
Neither coach said he thinks the diminished records means a diminished rivalry.
“To me it's about the kids we're putting out there and the kids who have been here the last five years for me,” Fox said. “There's a lot of history here at Yuma High, so keeping that going is what's important. Wins and losses? No that doesn't mean anything as far as the rivalry is concerned.”
“Anytime it's a rivalry game emotions are going to be high regardless if we're 9-0 or 0-9. It doesn't really matter,” Moore said. “For a lot of these seniors it's their last time playing football, so that all adds into it, too. I think once the game starts it comes down to who's willing to lay it on the line and block and tackle.”
Moore said he's been in a similar situation before. After that 2008 win at Yuma High, the Kings still needed to beat a struggling Cibola team to not only win the city championship but also make the postseason. That group had never beaten Cibola, and it came away with a win.
“I think it's important to them,” Moore said. “A few years back, when we won the region, our seniors at that time had never beaten Cibola. So in that last game of the season, that was on those kids' minds then. If these guys are sitting in that same kind of boat, that will just add a little bit more fuel to the fire.”
Klakulak said the key to the game for the Kings would be controlling both lines of scrimmage. His coach agreed.
“I think from a football standpoint we have to be able to run the football, block up front, and stop their running game,” Moore said. “I've been telling our guys since last year we've got to be the tougher football teams on Friday nights. I think if we're the tougher team tomorrow night we're going to have success.”
Yuma High won last year 14-0 on the heels of 30-13 and 34-20 victories. Fox said the team needs to use that emotion without forgetting about the basics.
“I don't want to say pressure, but they certainly want to keep that streak intact,” Fox said. “Both for themselves and leaving here with a four-game winning streak at the varsity level is something that is kind of special to them.”
Every year there's never any problem with emotions for Yuma-Kofa week,” he said. “We tell the guys in life, anything emotional gets you in the door. But you still have to execute to close the deal.”