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COURIER GAME OF THE WEEK

High School football: DNH, AP resume heated rivalry

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Aplington-Parkersburg's Gavin Thomas fires a pass down field during the second quarter Friday against Dike-New Hartford in Dike. 

PARKERSBURG — The scene at Ed Thomas Field in Parkersburg on Friday night will not be the run-of-the-mill Iowa high school football.

“It is going to be an unbelievable small-school Iowa high school football game,” Aplington-Parkersburg head coach Alex Pollock said. “The way the fans are able to be right on top of the field here, it creates a unique atmosphere that you do not see everywhere. There is going to be a buzz like we have not had here for a couple years now.”

Dike-New Hartford head coach Don Betts said his team knows how to handle environments similar to Friday’s game and expects the Wolverines to be comfortable despite the scene described by Pollock.

DNH senior linebacker and team captain Nick Reinicke said the senior-laden Wolverines know what to expect Friday night.

“It is going to be a great environment out there,” Reinicke said. “There is going to be a lot of energy. We tell [the younger players] to be prepared. Do not let it get in your head and focus on what is between those white lines. … When we step on the field, we are just focused on what goes on on that field. Nothing else matters.”

Both the Falcons and the Wolverines ranked in the top 10 in Class 1A this week and feature a combined record of 9-1.

The game serves as the continuation of a heated rivalry which both Pollock and Betts say does not require either team to be highly ranked.

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Dike-New Hartford's Jerek Hall (8) celebrates with teammates Nate Graves (84) and Braxten Johnson after a long touchdown run against Aplington-Parkersburg in Week 6.

“I have always said that it would not matter what the records are,” Betts said. “Both teams could be winless, and it would still be the biggest game of the year.”

The history of both programs has helped build the matchup up over each installment.

“This is probably — and has been for 25 years — the biggest rivalry on our schedule, maybe in this area,” Betts said. “Traditionally, two very good programs that do things the right way. It is a big rivalry.”

Reinicke touched on a number of the same characteristics of the rivalry when asked what the game meant from a player’s perspective.

“It has always been a big game on our schedule,” Reinicke said. “It is always fun to play. We always get after each other no matter how our teams line up. It is always a good game.”

Less than 15 miles separate Ed Thomas Field from the Wolverines’ home gridiron at Dike-New Hartford High School. That proximity of the communities plays a vital role in rivalry, according to Pollock.

“There is a lot of familiarity with the kids and the communities,” Pollock said. “There are a decent amount of people, they go to church in the other town. ... There is a lot of familiarity that makes it a very interesting rivalry game. …There are not a lot of secrets, and feels like there are so many people in the communities after graduation that the rivalry is always going to continue.”

To add to the already potent powder keg, Aplington-Parkersburg chose the rivalry matchup as its homecoming game for the 2022 season.

Pollock said the Falcons circled the game on their calendar “quite a while” ago, and his team understands the stakes at play Friday.

“It is going to be a great scene here,” Pollock said. “I want our kids to embrace that. I hope that this is the first of many big games that we have left on our schedule. Anytime you get these two teams together it is special. … I want our kids to embrace that, not shy away from it, but embrace it and go out there and play with unbelievable emotion.”

As for DNH, Betts said the Wolverines will not focus on the homecoming festivities of their opponents or their undefeated record. Rather, the Wolverines will continue focus on their season mission — keep getting better.

“We focus on: This is a rivalry, this is the next game on our schedule,” Betts said. “We need to do the things necessary this week in practice to put us into position to win on Friday. Then, hopefully, we can celebrate those things. … We have to get better. The teams that are going to go a long way — make the playoffs, have good seasons — they get better every week. We identify the things each week that we need to work on, improve on. … The next step for us is just continued improvement as a team.”

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