The football rivalry between Goddard and Eisenhower began to ratchet up in intensity last year when the meeting finally carried significance.
Bragging rights and a district title were at stake. Goddard won 34-19, but lost the next week in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs while Eisenhower advanced to the semifinals.
Debating which program is more successful has raged on ever since and Friday’s meeting at Goddard is expected to be the most intense yet after Eisenhower took exception to the posts of a few Goddard students on social media this week.
“It’s probably not as big of a deal to us as it is to them,” Eisenhower coach Marc Marinelli said. “Our goal is simple: Go 1-0 each week. They have their goal and No. 1 on that goal board is to beat us. We treat it as another game, another chance to get better before the playoffs. We don’t hype them up or burn stuffed-animal tigers.”
Goddard coach Scott Vang saw the posts and chalked it up to the immaturity of high school kids.
“I love the rivalry and it obviously means something to this district,” Vang said. “Kids are being kids and doing stupid stuff, but I think it all leads to a fun night on Friday. I wish they wouldn’t have done that because I’m under the philosophy of don’t poke the bear, but kids are going to be kids.”
It has created a distraction from what should be a competitive game between two teams vying to crack the 5A rankings.
Under Vang, Goddard has developed a reputation as a physical team at the point of attack and now has the skill players in quarterback Blake Sullivan, running back Kody Gonzalez, and receiver Bryant Mocaby to make its offense dangerous.
“I think it’s the best Goddard team Scott has ever had, top to bottom,” Marinelli said. “Scott is such a great offensive line coach, those guys are always so physical. He gets the most out of every kid in that program. If I wasn’t coaching at Eisenhower, I would go visit and ask him how he’s doing it.”
After being ranked before the season, Eisenhower began 0-2 before defeating Newton 40-27 last week.
The Tigers run a flexbone offense, orchestrated by senior quarterback Mason Madzey, and they have added a new threat to their attack: Tanner King, a 6-foot-2 receiver who caught three touchdown passes last week and has nine catches for 230 yards and five scores in three games.
“It’s not an offense you see all the time, so you have to teach stuff to your kids that you haven’t taught all year,” Vang said. “The No. 1 challenge is stopping the run, but then you have Tanner King and he’s going to present some challenges, too. We’re going to have to play well."
The social-media antics have only intensified what already was an important game on Friday.
“I know we view every game against them a big one because it’s our crosstown rival,” Vang said. “I can’t speak for their program and how they view it, but our kids know their kids and they want to beat them. I know we’re going to show up and try our best to win this thing.”