A showdown in Valley Memorial Stadium features one of the longest continuous rivalries in WPIAL Class AA high school football.
The Valley Vikings will square off against the Burrell Bucs for the 34th consecutive year Friday to right the ship of a forgettable four-game losing streak in the series that includes a 41-6 drumming from Burrell last season.
Valley went on a three-game winning streak of its own from 2006 to '09 only to have Burrell turn the tide and go on its current streak of four games. Before the Vikings successful postseason appearance last season, they were on a 22-game losing streak, going scoreless in seven of those games.
But with the return of senior running back Demetrius Houser in combination with Burrell graduating key players from last season, the Vikings see this game as theirs for the taking.
"This is the biggest game of the season," said coach Chad Walsh, whose Vikings are coming off an impressive 42-16 victory against Deer Lakes. "They have had our number as of late, but we are definitely looking to change that this week."
The second-year coach said his seniors are taking this game "personal" because they have been on the tail-end of defeat since they have dawned the black and gold.
"This is a big rivalry, the oldest rivalry; since the school districts are so close to each other, they have probably played in the same league since they were 7 years old," Walsh said. "They have never beaten Burrell."
One senior Walsh is depending on is the electric Houser who spearheaded the Vikings attack, rushing for 287 yards and three touchdowns in last week's win.
"'Meit' has two speeds, fast and faster," Walsh said, "We are looking for him to have another big day."
Separated by a quick 3-mile drive along Route 56, these rival schools have seen players compete against each other since their youth league days.
The familiarity between the players intensifies the matchup as they also face each other regularly in other sports and spot each other in the neighborhoods of Lower Burrell and New Kensington. One person very familiar with this rivalry is Burrell's 1995 starting quarterback whose first start came against Valley -- Burrell head coach Kevin Horwatt.
"Ever since I was a little kid, it has always been that way," Horwatt said. "It's a heated rivalry."
Horwatt even spoke about the back-and-forth pranks when Valley would steal the cannon that Burrell ignites after every touchdown and paint it black and gold.
He said the rivalry may have lost a bit of its luster because "the kids don't remember how it used to be," but said facing Valley in a conference game in the second week of the season is a "reality check" and an important game.
"They are a great quality football team," Horwatt said. "Being able to play them so early will give us an indication of where we stand."
Burrell is fresh off a lopsided 46-14 win against Brownsville and Horwatt said his team answered a lot of questions after Cole Bush moved on to Saint Francis, a DivisionI-AA school.
"He was a major part in our offense, but with Cody [Wolfe] and a mixture of players, our offense is more shifty and we spread the ball around."
Wolfe rushed for 111 yards and junior running back Ryan Sowol added 2 more on the ground.
"[Wolfe] is still learning about the game, but the talent he has is phenomenal," Horwatt said.
Walsh said defending against Wolfe presents a challenge: "He can throw, but on film he moves really well outside the pocket. It will be a task trying to contain him."
Horwatt said this game also presents a challenge for the Bucs.
"Playing Valley in Week 2 forces you to take that next step," he said.
"A lot of true colors will be shown."