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by Mike Nutter
(June 18)If most of the players on the North's 33-man roster were unaware of the rivalry that exists between the two squads in Saturday's 45th Annual North-South Football Classic, they do now.
They can thank the South's Orlando Washington for that.
Washington, who played at Man High School and has signed with Marshall, made some comments publicly that got the "competitive juices" of many of the North's players going after a sixth-month hiatus from football.
"It's getting pretty rough down here," said Robert C. Byrd's Marshall Cox. "There were some things said in the newspaper that really got us going.
"We didn't come down here to practice all week and hear that kind of junk. We want to win this game."
Last year's 14-13 win for the North ended a three-year streak in which it had not scored a touchdown.
Overall, the South holds a 29-12-3 edge heading into Saturday's game.
Liberty's Shawn Bennett agreed with Cox's view.
"I didn't really know about (the rivalry)," Bennett said.
"The coaches really let you know about it, though. They bust your butt and keep you aware that there is a game to be played," Bennett said.
"But coming down here to represent the North is a pride thing. It's an honor to be selected to play, but once you are here, you really want to beat those guys."
Cox and Bennett will be starters on the offensive line for the North, and both say it has been a little difficult getting back into football conditioning.
"The experience down here has been really good," said Cox. "But there is some soreness. I haven't played in over six months, and after the second day you're going contact."
Still, others like South Harrison's Brent Fenstermacher have a much more simple outlook.
"I just want to play some football," Fenstermacher said. "I haven't been on the field in a while, and it was real tough in the beginning.
"I haven't really seen any (South players), but the way I figure it, if you are going to come all the way down here to practice, you might as well win the game."
While both Bennett and Fenstermacher have committed to play for Fairmont State, Cox sees this as a good opportunity to boost his chances for a scholarship.
"Hopefully, this can get me some exposure for some college scouts," said Cox.
"Here, you are competing against the best players in the state."
"A good showing here can really help someone like me."
As far as key strategies for the game, Grafton's Jay Garrett was to the point with his assessment.
"You've got the best offensive players in the state, and you've got the best defensive players in the state," Garrett said.
"The key is just getting used to all of the new faces.
"It's taken a while, but I think that we will be fine on Saturday."