Raiders, Vikings anxious for Optimist Bowl
Capturing the Optimist Bowl trophy means everything to the players involved in the annual game between Northern Vance and Southern Vance.
That trophy and the bragging rights that accompany it are at stake Friday at Raider Stadium as Northern and Southern add the 24th chapter to their rivalry series.
“The best game of the season, especially for the whole county,” said Southern Vance senior lineman Jaquez Bullock. “A whole lot of people are talking about coming out to the game. It should be a good turnout. Both teams are pretty much hype.”
“It feels almost like a college game,” added Bullock, “the intensity of it.”
Southern (1-1) had a week to rest after defeating Cedar Ridge 24-19 Aug. 30.
The Raiders have hoisted the Optimist trophy four consecutive times and in nine of the last 10 meetings.
Southern senior quarterback Ty-Traveon Roberts likened the game’s intensity to that of a Carolina-Duke matchup.
“The crowd is so hype and you’re pumped up because you want to win that trophy,” added Roberts. “It’s our last year and we want to win that trophy this year.”
Grasping the golden football trophy is a magical moment for Roberts.
“It feels like a pot of gold,” said Roberts. “Like a leprechaun with a pot of gold.”
Northern’s seniors haven’t been so lucky. They don’t know what it’s like to win the game, although they’ve been close the last two seasons.
The Vikings (0-3) lost by a point in 2011 before last season’s 6-0 double-overtime loss.
“All games are important, but Southern Vance — it’s our crosstown rival,” said Northern lineman Mykel Williams. “I’m ready to win. We’ve been coming up short. Last year we lost by a touchdown. The year before that, we lost by one point. I’m just ready to get a win.”
Northern hasn’t had a win of any sort since the opening week of last season.
The run game, highlighted by the play of Tamaj Bullock and senior Devin Anderson, has been a bright spot for Northern, which lost last week to Franklinton 50-28.
Anderson, also the leader of the Vikings’ defense at linebacker, said the Northern-Southern game is one of the most important things in his life.
“Ever since rec league, we’ve never beaten that side of the track,” said Anderson. “Ever since my freshman year we always lost. So this is like the Super Bowl to us. The past couple years, we’ve just been losing. Ever since we’ve been little kids, they always beat us. So this year, it’s time to take it home for us. It’s ours.”
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