Our first high school football game of the 2014 season takes us across the bridge to Henderson, Kentucky as two teams familiar with one another in more ways then one meet for the sixth straight time to open their seasons.

Since the 2009 season, the Henderson County Colonels and the Reitz Panthers have traded trips to each other's home turf to kickoff their respective seasons, and Coach Tony Lewis has won them all — with both teams.

As you may or may not recall, Lewis left Reitz in early 2013 after five seasons with the Panthers that included three sectional titles, two regional titles, one semi-state, and one state title. He took his talents across the river to Henderson County where he took the team to second round of the Kentucky 6-A playoffs where they lost to eventual state runner-up, Meade County.

Back on Evansville's west side, former Reitz player, Andy Hape was hired to fill the vacancy left behind by Lewis' departure, the same position his father held from 1983-1990.
After a bumpy 1-2 start to the season, Hape guided the Panthers to a 6-3 regular season record and a trip to the sectional title game where they fell to Jasper 17-9.

With a full season under their proverbial belts that has allowed them to not only acclimate their players to their respective systems, but has also given each of them the chance to get comfortable in their new surroundings, both coaches now set their sights on the start of the upcoming season knowing the first game out of the gate is going to be tough.

The previous three games of this match up have been decided by six points or less, with Reitz needing overtime to squeak out a 21-20 win in 2011. Last season's meeting included the extra intrigue of Tony Lewis' return to the Reitz bowl as the coach of a team other than the Panthers, which whether they would admit it or not, certainly gave the team and their fans extra fuel to try and come out with a win. Unfortunately for the Panthers and their fans it wasn't meant to be as the Colonels left the Bowl with a 24-21 win.

One has to think revenge is on the mind of the Panther's as they look to return the favor and take one away from their old coach on his home turf Friday night. Fortunately for Reitz, they have one of the more dynamic running backs in the area with senior Malik Higgins. A dual threat out of the backfield who ran for 1,076 yards on just 106 attempts last season (a 10.1 yard per carry average for those keeping score at home), and scored 12 touchdowns while adding 420 yards on 25 receptions, seven of which resulted in a touchdown.

On the other side, the Colonels will rely on senior Richard Carter to lead the way at quarterback after starting the last three games of the 2013 season, taking over for then-junior Daniel Steiner who suffered a concussion. Much like Reitz, Henderson County also has a more-than-capable running back in Damion Carter (no relation to Richard) who rushed for nearly 1,200 yards and nine touchdown's last season.

It will no doubt be one heck of a game under the lights Friday night in Henderson when these two teams meet, and you'll be able to catch every snap on ESPN Evansville 105.3, and online at ESPNEvansville.com with pregame at 6:30, and kickoff at 7:00.

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