The Skuna River Rivalry will produce a North finalist this time.
Bruce plays at Calhoun City at 7 p.m. today in an MHSAA Class 2A state quarterfinals sequel to this season’s earlier 65th meeting in the series.
After what happened in the 65th game – Calhoun City won 56-15 Oct. 3 – not many people thought Bruce would make it back to another one, except Trojans coach James Ray.
“I thought we would be in this position at the beginning of the summer,” Ray said. “I really did.”
A veteran group returned, but was hit hard by injuries and got 100 percent healthy just in time for the playoffs. The Trojans (5-7) have won three straight games, the first one at Okolona just to sneak into the postseason.
Nothing went right for Bruce in the first meeting. Calhoun City (12-0) saw Brieton Sykes rush for 217 yards and four touchdowns on 10 carries. That tape may as well be thrown away for Calhoun City coach Perry Liles.
“They’ve got a good football team or they wouldn’t have made it this far,” he said. “What’s happened in the past doesn’t matter.”
The teams met in 1995 and 1996 with state title berths on the line. But this is the first Skuna playoff with Liles and Ray at the helms. Bruce’s return across the Skuna isn’t a surprise to Liles.
He praised Ray’s team after the lopsided result. The Wildcats were then, and still are the Journal’s top small school, also the No. 1 Class 2A team in the state.
“I didn’t think we’d go the route we did to get here,” Ray said, “the injuries early on and then we just lost our confidence and the Calhoun City game turned out like it did the first time. I’m really proud of our kids. We got healthy, started believing again and here we are.”