The West Side Nut Club trophy, along with the City and Conference titles are on the line as Evansville's two west side high schools continue their heated rivalry Friday night at the Reitz Bowl in the regular season finale.

This will be the 61st match up between the teams dating all the way back to 1952, with the rivalry growing in intensity each year. To have so much on the line for this year's game will only raise the intensity to a fever pitch as thousands, upon thousands of fans pack the Bowl.

As a Mater Dei graduate, I can tell you this is the game fans look forward to each year. Even if both teams were to enter the game with zero wins, if their team wins, the fans will consider it a successful season.

This is more than a football game to these teams and their fans. This is for west side bragging rights. Yes, the teams meet up in all other sports year round, but this has always been the game that gets the most focus. Generally because both teams are usually good, and their fans are rabid.

There are a variety of underlying angles that make this game a must win in the minds of the fans. The most obvious being that both schools are on the west side, located only a mile and a half away from each other meaning that if you're a proud west sider (good luck finding one that's not), you, your kids, and more than likely your parents, along with aunts, uncles, and cousins went to one of these two schools. Long story short, the bloodlines run deep, and whichever school you attend, you are either a Panther or a Wildcat for life.

Mater Dei enters the game undefeated at 8-0, while the Panthers come in at 6-2 after an opening week loss to former Head Coach Tony Lewis' new team, the Henderson County Colonels, and a week three loss to Castle where they were shutout for the first time since 2004 when they lost a non-conference game to Indianapolis Chatard.

That loss, which gave them a record of 1-2 at the time, seemed to light a fire under the Panthers as they've run the table since then, giving them a shot at the outright city title, and a share of the Conference title if they can beat the Wildcats Friday night.

A win by Mater Dei will give them sole possession of both titles and bring the Nut Club Trophy back into their possession after losing last year's game to the Panthers.

This game will be interesting in the fact that it more than likely be contest of who can run the ball better. Traditionally known for their passing attack, the Wildcats have relied almost exclusively on a multiple threat running game starting with senior Nolan Goebel who racked up 152 yards on 23 carries, two of which found their way into the end zone, against Central last week. That followed back-to-back weeks where the 5'8", 160 pound back ran for over 200 yards and a combined seven touchdowns.

Juniors Logan McCann and Julian Weidner have also been effective for Mater Dei in the running game with the Wildcats calling on McCann to pick up first downs on short yardage situations out of the full back position, and the speedy Weidner coming out of the slot receiver position on sweep plays, or lining up behind, or next to quarterback Chase Hoehn in the running back spot depending on the formation.

The uncharacteristic effectiveness and reliance on the running game for the Wildcats was no more evident than it was last week against Central when Hoehn didn't even attempt a pass in the first half.

A key part of Mater Dei's effective ground game starts with their offensive line; quite possibly the biggest in the history of the program. With an average height of 6'2", and an average weight of 236 pounds, the Wildcats line has opened some massive lanes for their backs while wearing down smaller defensive lines to the point of near exhaustion by the second half.

The Panthers have relied on a similar style with senior DeWayne Esters carrying the bulk of the running load, and junior receiver Malik Higgins being utilized on sweep-style plays much like Weidner for Mater Dei. Against Bosse last week, Esters ran for 187 yards on 21 carries with two scores, while Higgins added 146 yards on 16 carries with one touchdown.

A power running game isn't a new concept for the Panthers who for years have run a read-option type of offense where the quarterback has the choice of either passing the ball or taking off and running with it depending on the action of the defensive end. Evansville high school football fans no doubt remember the MacIntosh brothers, Matt, and his brother Paul before him, who perfected the style and used it to carry the Panthers to a couple of state titles.

While it may be uncharacteristic when it comes to the style of game we're used to seeing these teams play, it will no doubt be a slobber knocker in front of a Reitz Bowl full of fans, have of which sporting blue and grey, the other decked out in red and gold.

Catch every snap live as it happens on Newstalk 1280, and online at, with pregame at 6:30 and kick off at 7:00

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