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'It's Decatur-Austin'
And that says it all about the stakes when they play

By Brooke Milam · 340-2460

The T-shirts have been on sale all week in the school offices and lunchrooms at Austin and Decatur High. The message printed on them is a simple thought that remains in the back of the minds of players, coaches, students and fans of both schools all year.

"Beat Austin."

"Beat Decatur."

They are especially powerful statements this week as the Decatur city schools face off Friday at Ogle Stadium at 7 p.m.

Decatur (8-1) will be the home team on the scoreboard and in the stands, but Austin (4-5) will be on its home field as well.

The Black Bears enter on top in the series. Austin won last year 17-14 for the first time since 2001. It marked the final game of the season for both squads as both teams finished 4-6 and missed the playoffs.

If the Black Bears win again, it will mark the first time Austin has strung together consecutive wins in the rivalry since beating Decatur in the regular season and the playoffs in 1985.

The matchup is no longer a region game after Decatur moved from Class 6A to 5A in 2006, but it still means plenty to the players involved.

"It's Decatur-Austin, and that's big enough in and of itself," fourth-year Austin head coach David Norwood said. "It's one that no one is going to back down from."

Decatur and Austin have played every year since 1965. The city rivals also met in the playoffs in 1984 and '85.

Decatur leads the overall series 30-14, but is on a mission to erase the sting of last year's loss, which was the final dagger in an uncharacteristic season for the Red Raiders and one they want to leave far behind.

"Around here, there's no reason to talk about that kind of stuff. It's not something you have to remind them of," 12th-year Decatur head coach Jere Adcock said.

"The thing we've talked about this year the most is to get better every game." This season, Decatur comes in as the Region 8 champions, the No. 6 team in 5A and riding an eight-game win streak.

Austin is holding the memory of last year's win in this rivalry.

"It made a huge difference in our season," Norwood said. "You finish the year with a win, and there are not many people that can say they did that, other than the state champions and a few others."

Decatur is getting set for the playoffs.

The Red Raiders will host a first-round game next week, and Adcock said this week's rivalry matchup is the perfect setup for the intensity of the postseason. The Red Raiders' past two wins came by a combined 70 points over Muscle Shoals and Brewer.

"I think this gets us back into the playoff-thinking mode," Adcock said. "The intensity level is higher this week, a bigger crowd, more at stake.

"It gets you thinking like you've got to think as you start the playoffs."

The statistics show potential for an intense matchup as well.

Both teams' passing games have been potent.

Decatur sophomore quarterback Ben Neill has completed 90 of 138 passes for 1,309 yards and 20 touchdowns with only three interceptions.

Eight different Red Raiders have caught touchdown passes, led by junior Cory Dodson's eight scores.

Senior Justin Bishop is Decatur's leading receiver with 25 receptions for 450 yards and five touchdowns.

For Austin, junior Justin Jones has connected on 107 of 203 passes for 1,385 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Jones' favorite target is junior Freddie Moore, who has 25 catches for 361 yards and three touchdowns.

On the ground, Decatur is led by junior Chris Coffey's 123 carries for 765 yards and six touchdowns, while Neill has 52 carries for 223 yards and two touchdowns.

Austin junior D'Nico Best has rolled up the most rushing yards for the Black Bears. Best's 96 carries have produced 599 yards. Jones has 63 carries for 358 yards and four touchdowns.

Both kickers have delivered game-winners this season in important games.

Decatur senior Michael Schuster kicked the winning extra point in a 24-23 overtime win Oct. 12 against Russellville, then ranked No. 2 in 5A. That victory gave Decatur the upper hand in the region race, which the Raiders eventually won.

Austin junior Josh Lowman kicked a game-winning 21-yard field goal with three seconds remaining in a 34-31 victory at region foe Sparkman on Sept. 21.

Defensively, senior linebacker Tim Witherspoon has led the Red Raiders in tackles this season, and Austin's top tackler is junior D.T. Shackelford.

Adcock said he is impressed with the Black Bears' talent and knows Austin will be highly motivated this week. Norwood said fans can expect both teams to be at their best Friday night.

"Decatur's going to play to win, and we're going to play to win,"Norwood said.

"It's like any good rivalry — it's for city pride."

River City rivalry

Who: Austin (4-5) vs. Decatur (8-1).

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Where: Ogle Stadium.

What to read

Wednesday: Austin High seniors have a chance to leave their mark.

Thursday: This year’s Red Raiders mirror 2005 region champions.

Friday: One last advance look at the matchup.

Saturday: Complete coverage from the game.

River City rivalry at Ogle Stadium

Who: Austin (4-5) at Decatur (8-1).

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Stakes: This one is for pride. Austin wants to end its season with a win and pull off its second straight victory against rival Decatur for the first time since 1985. The Red Raiders have won eight games in a row after dropping their season opener and want to keep the momentum going into the playoffs.

Friday’s other games

Game in Morgan County: Falkville (5-4) at Priceville (5-4).

Lawrence County: Tarrant (5-4) at R.A. Hubbard (3-6).

Limestone County: Clements (4-5) at Ardmore (1-8), Elkmont (4-5) at Tanner (6-3), Good Hope (7-2) at West Limestone (4-5).

Other counties: Athens (3-6) at Sparkman (2-7), Brewer (3-6) at Arab (1-8), Hazlewood (9-0) at Parrish (2-7), Lawrence County (2-7) at West Point (1-8), Lynn (6-3) at Addison (7-2).

Austin-Decatur series history

1965: Decatur 27-7

1966: Austin 20-19

1967: Decatur 33-0

1968: Austin 14-0

1969: Decatur 16-6

1970: Decatur 18-13

1971: Decatur 32-0

1972: Decatur 28-0

1973: Austin 20-14

1974: Decatur 7-0

1975: Decatur 21-6

1976: Decatur 27-7

1977: Decatur 21-0

1978: Decatur 14-10

1979: Decatur 15-6

1980: Decatur 15-14

1981: Austin 7-0

1982: Austin 39-8

1983: Austin 15-12

1984: Austin 17-14

1984: Decatur 13-3 (state playoffs)

1985: Austin 10-0

1985: Austin 25-14 (playoffs)

1986: Decatur 16-13

1987: Decatur 17-14

1988: Decatur 20-6

1989: Decatur 31-9

1990: Decatur 7-6

1991: Austin 17-14, OT

1992: Decatur 20-10

1993: Decatur 21-7

1994: Austin 9-6

1995: Decatur 14-3

1996: Austin 13-10

1997: Decatur 41-10

1998: Decatur 22-0

1999: Decatur 25-20

2000: Decatur 31-7

2001: Austin 21-17

2002: Decatur 13-6

2003: Decatur 28-7

2004: Decatur 14-0

2005: Decatur 31-6

2006: Austin 17-14

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