FEATURE: More Than Bragging Rights in this edition of Battle Line on 59
HOUSTON – Never before has so much been on the line.
For the past nine years when New Caney and Porter have met in their annual rivalry game - the Battle Line on 59 - the only thing that has been up for grabs is bragging rights – which the Eagles have claimed every time.
Also up for grabs, the ownership of a four-foot tall trophy – which is a Highway 59 sign on top of a wooden base with the name of the game's previous winners on the side.
This year's winner will get that trophy to display in their fieldhouse for the next 365 days and the community bragging rights that comes with it. But also goes to the winner a gold football as the District 9-5A-DI Champion.
Like I said, never has this much been on the line.
"Kind of felt like it could come to something like this," New Caney coach Brady Pennington said. "What an exciting time for New Caney ISD to have both their high school's playing for a district championship in the Battle Line game. We just wanted to get better as the season progressed and trying to be playing our best ball going into the playoffs.
"What a great game right before going into the playoffs to test your kids."
Being within grasp of a district title isn't foreign territory for Pennington's Eagles.
New Caney entered this year seeking the program's fourth-straight district title, which has never been done. In fact, when Pennington arrived in 2011, New Caney had won a total of two district crowns since 1955.
On the other sideline, for Porter, this is foreign territory.
For the first few years of the program's existence, to win three games in a year was the high-water mark. Jim Holley arrived in 2016 and the switch flipped.
Porter has plugged in now four-straight winning seasons, has already set a new program high of wins in a season with eight this year and has the chance to claim its first-ever district title.
"I think it has a chance to be pretty exciting," Holley said about the game. "This is our fourth football season here, we've been working towards this. We've been blessed and fortunate enough to get into the playoffs the last three years. This is the first time in school history we're playing for the district championship. So, I think there's a lot of excitement out there. We expect a pretty big crowd on Friday night.
"I think that'll add to the atmosphere, not that you need a lot of other things going on. If you can't get excited to play this game, you might want to check your pulse."
This game will pit the district's best of the best against each other.
New Caney enters as the best offensive unit, averaging 487.2 yards per game, guided by dual-threat quarterback Zion Childress, while Porter comes in with the best defense, giving up 130 yards per night, led by Zhyon Bell.
Childress enters this week leading the district in passing (83-136, 1,670 yards, 18 TDs) and rushing (1,179 yards, 15 TDs).
"We have the mentality of one game at a time," Holley said. "We want to try to be 1-0 this week. Yeah, it's the Battle Line game, it's New Caney, it's for the district championship. You have to take that all in but take it in perspective. We know New Caney is a great football team, they're one of the best football teams in the state of Texas. They are coached very well, a good program and we know we will have our hands full."
Defensively, Porter has forced an impressive 26 turnovers, which is just ahead of New Caney's 18.
Of the turnovers, 12 have been interceptions with Carter Crochet and Luke Cordle lead the team with four and three picks, respectively.
"They may have the best defense we've played since I've been here," Pennington said. "They are outstanding football team on defense and very talented on offense. They have receivers, who can all take it to the goalline if we don't tackle well on Friday night."
When asked what has helped get this program to an 8-1 mark this season, Holley spoke highly of the defense. A unit which has surrendered just 39 points in six district games and just 68 points all year - an average of a touchdown per game.
"Our defense has been solid all year long," Holley said. "They've kept us in the games, made plays for us all year long. They are really the foundation of our football team right now. They do a great job over there."
Walking into Randall Reed Stadium on Friday night, Pennington already knows what to expect – a playoff atmosphere.
"There'll be more people there than any game we play probably for the rest of the season," Pennington said.
With the first round of the playoffs looming next week, to get to play a playoff-caliber team in the final game of the regular season, Pennington said is perfect for his team.
"We feel like iron sharpens iron over here, so I feel like we're going to be a worthy opponent for them and they're definitely going to be for us," "You need to play in these kind of ballgames because I feel like we're going to have to handle adversity because we're going to have our hands full. I think it's awesome to be playing a game like this going into the playoffs."
Last year's installment of Battle Line on 59 was arguably the most exciting in the nine-game series, which ended up being a six-point victory for New Caney is double overtime.
"It was pretty exciting last year, I look forward to it being the same," Pennington said.
The game will also be a time where New Caney ISD honors the participants of Camp Hope and support the PTSD Foundation of America. To learn more about how you can support these two great organizations - CLICK HERE
Join NCISD, along with Gringo's Tex-Mex and Mathnasium, for the Battle Line on 59, Nov. 8, at Randall Reed Stadium. Show support for Camp Hope and the PTSD Foundation of America. #NCISD @NewCaneyHS @PorterSpartans https://t.co/HHJ0JKrbAS pic.twitter.com/r5FPJ1G9e7
— New Caney ISD (@newcaneyisd) October 3, 2019