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Huskies ready to rekindle Battle of Tappan Lake

CADIZ — For several years, Claymont was a staple on Harrison Central’s schedule.

Thursday night, the Mustangs and Huskies rekindle the old Tappan Lake rivalry in a marquee opener.

“They’re 25 minutes up the road and it’s an old rivalry,” Harrison Central head coach Anthony Hayes said. “We played Claymont when we first consolidated and that was a very long-running game.

“This is a renewal of a good rivalry.”

Hayes, who was on the staff as an assistant the last time the teams met and is entering his fourth season at the helm of the Huskies, was excited to get the game back on the schedule for the first time since 2016. The game was a regular occurrence until 2012.

“I love playing local teams, I am kind of old school in that I love old, local rivalries,” he said. “Our community against yours, our team against yours.

“When they reached out to us and wanted to play this game again I was real excited because this is a great game for both communities, two comparable schools and programs. We have the same type kids. Our kids know each other and hang out together at Tappan Lake, hence the name Battle of Tappan Lake.”

Playing a day before most teams start their season is an added layer of excitement.

“At this point we’re all chomping at the bit ready to play a game,” he said. “Even though the season starts earlier this year, we’re all excited and ready to play. To get chance to play a game right out of the gates before most teams creates some excitement and some buzz for our teams and our coaching staff.”

Adding to that excitement is it is in the friendly confines of Wagner Field.

“We have one of the nicest venues around,” he said. “We have first-class facilities and we get the chance to start the season off at home. We’re at full capacity this year, and, let’s be honest, we don’t know for how long that might be, so playing our home opener at Wagner Field anticipating an extremely large crowd … I think it’s going to be electric.

“We love playing at home and in front of the Harrison County folks.”

The Mustangs are on a 19-game skid, however Hayes and company are not taking them lightly as they know Claymont will be hungry to get back in the win column for the first time since 2018.

“They are itching to get after it, as everybody is right now,” Hayes said. “They were down for a couple years, but every year is something new and I think everybody is upbeat and ready to go anytime you start a new season.”

Hayes’ first impression of the Mustangs is they have size.

“The thing I’ve probably noticed the most is the fact that they are very big,” he said of the Mustangs. “They are very, very big up front. Their offensive and defensive lines are big, strong, and not just that, they’re pretty darn athletic. That is the first thing that was glaring to me on film.

“They also have nice running back they are trying to get downhill a little more this year, so that presents some challenges for us. We have to make sure we are stout and stopping the run between the tackles.”

The Huksies, Hayes said, are bigger than last year which could help combat the Mustangs’ fronts.

“We’re bigger than we have been,” he said. “We’re not as big as we want to be, but we have put some good quality time in the weight room this off season. We were averaging between 165-175 on our offensive and defensive lines the last couple years and this year we’re averaging 225, so that will certainly help.

“We just have to play sound, fundamental defense. We have to make the right reads, use the technique we’ve been coaching them to do all summer and preseason. If we do that, we’ll be fine.”

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