When the Monroe City and Palmyra football teams met in the final game of the regular season two weeks ago, Monroe City pulled off an emotional 40-22 victory in a game that transcended the football field.
Now the two Clarence Cannon Conference rivals are slated to do battle again at 7 p.m. Friday in Monroe City in the Class 2A District 6 semifinals, and neither team is ready to hang the helmets up yet.
"It's not every day you get to have a rivalry game mixed in with an elimination game," Palmyra running back Dakota Compton said. "The emotions are definitely going to be different. We are going to try and come out with some fire and hopefully change the outcome this time."
Monroe City was still reeling from the loss of assistant coach Jamar White in an automobile accident just six days before the previous game on October 25, and running back Antuwan Battle -- White's nephew -- was a big reason his team came out on top. Battle ran for 102 yards and three touchdowns, including a 40-yard score less than three minutes into the first quarter.
Battle wore White's No. 21 instead of his usual No. 14 that night, and he suspects his uncle will be on the sideline again on Friday.
"He loved this game against Palmyra, and it just makes me think I have to do it all for him every time we play them," Battle said.
Monroe City owned a 16-0 lead at halftime in the last meeting, and while Palmyra got the scoring started in the second half, it could never get closer than eight points.
"Monroe came out and smacked us in the mouth early, and our kids didn't respond the greatest," Palmyra coach Kevin Miles said. "There were a lot of emotions, a lot of things happening that night and you don't know how your kids are going to respond to that. So we hope that was part of if and hopefully they come out and are a little bit stronger earlier and we play a full game."
Even with the previous victory under its belt, Monroe City isn't walking in expecting an easy win.
"It's going to be a hard game. It's Palmyra," Monroe City running back Keenan Batsell said. "Palmyra is going to be ready for us, and we are going to be ready. It's going to be a hard game to the end. It's going to be a great show."
Batsell combined with Battle to run for 234 yards the last time out, and Palmyra knows that can't happen again.
"As a team, we take our defense very seriously. We don't like giving up a ton of points, anything over 14 points is an insult in our book," Palmyra defensive lineman Weston King said. "Us as a defensive line, we take that personally, too, because we are the first line of defense. We have to stop that by punching them in the mouth and stopping them right off the bat."
With the way the Monroe City backfield plays, that will be easier said than done.
"If they take one away, then the other guy should be open," Monroe City coach David Kirby said. "They understand that they have to carry out great fakes, they have to carry out great blocks, they have to be selfless for the other guy and that's kind of been our M.O. for this program over the last few years, playing selfless football."
Batsell has well over 1,000 yards on the season, multiple 200-yard nights and is an All-CCC first-team selection, but he enjoys every yard Battle picks up as much as his own.
"That's our program. We do our best to go down the middle, go outside, anything that helps us run the ball the best we can," he said.
Palmyra is no slouch at moving the ball either. Dakota Compton led all rushers two weeks ago with 142 yards and a touchdown on 42 carries, and quarterback Corder Lehenbauer was 12 for 18 with 148 yards and a score.
"The Compton kid is a tough, tough kid. I like watching him run. Not against us, but I like watching him run," Kirby said. "Corder has done a great job. You've seen him kind of grow throughout the year, and their attack offensively is great with their big receivers and their offensive line is a big group of human beings. They have a lot of weapons. We are going to have to try and keep them guessing.
"It's one of those good, old-fashioned, slugfest football games."
The ability to adjust both the week leading up to Friday and during the game will be key for both sides.
"A game like this is like a 15-round title fight," Miles said. "You come into the game and you figure out what's going to work for you and you run with it. That's what this has to be. They are going to prepare for things that we did last time and try to stop it, and we are hopefully going to prepare for things they did last time and try to stop it.
"Coach Kirby and myself will have to figure out what works this time and go from there."
The recent history of elimination games between the two teams has skewed toward Monroe City. Since 1994, Monroe City and Palmyra have met in 12 elimination games and Monroe City as come out on top eight times, most recently in 2008 with a 14-7 victory over Palmyra in the district finals.
"That's what this rivalry is all about, honestly," Miles said. "There's been a lot of huge games. It's one of those things you come to expect out of Monroe and Palmyra. This part of the state, we've always been two of the better teams around and we've had some heated battles over the years. There's a lot of history between Monroe and Palmyra and their kids and their parents and friends. It's always an exciting game to be involved in, whether it's the Mayor's Cup or a district semifinal game."