Two high powered offenses and tough defenses will take the field Friday night to determine who is the front runner for the Class 4A, District 3 championship.
Not only will DeRidder and Leesville battle for a district title, but also a better seeding in the Power Rankings, and of course, the Hooper Trophy.
Their location and being in the same district has led to a natural rivalry, which creates a unique atmosphere for the players and fans.
"You try to keep the guys on an even keel, and let them know that this game is just as big as the next one. We're playing for a lot of things this week," Leesville head coach Robert Causey said. "We're playing for the Hooper Trophy, a home playoff game and a district championship. Next week, we're playing for a district championship and home playoff game. The last week of the season, you're playing for a home playoff game. This time of the season, you treat every game like a one-and-done situation."
Over the past 12 matchups, Leesville leads the series 7-5, but has only outscored DeRidder by a total of 9 points during that stretch.
"There's not a whole lot that separates us," Causey said. "We're connected via 171, by Fort Polk and being bordering parishes. We're always going to be connected.
"It's healthy for both communities because of the jealousy factor. If they're doing well, our community wants us to do well. I think it is good for all football that Many isn't the only winning team on 171. I think it's good that there's some healthy jealousy between the programs because it makes everyone better."
Leesville (6-1, 2-0) and DeRidder (5-1, 1-0) are each undefeated in the district and have one loss on the year. The Dragons have district games with Buckeye and Grant to finish out the year, and the Wampus Cats take on district foe Tioga and St. Louis Catholic to finish the year.
"Sure, it's big. It's week 8, it's a district game and it's a big rivalry game," DeRidder head coach Brad Parmley said. "It's fun to play these kind of games down the stretch of the regular season. Hopefully, our kids are ready to play come Friday.
"Practice has been good. We've been preaching all year that it's about us and how we need get better every day and every week. We're hoping we can keep doing that."
Both teams use a mix of run and pass to keep defenses guessing, and although the output it similar, the two schemes are different.
The Wampus Cats are led by senior Andrew Croker who can run and catch the ball out of the backfield. Crocker has 466 receiving yards and five touchdowns, along with 421 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
"Leesville has some great some skill players," Parmley said. "We're hoping we can rally to the football and get some hats to the ball and tackle well in space."
Quarterback Chris Vargas makes things click for the Wampus Cats and can get the ball downfield to receivers Kobe Joiner, McKenzie Jackson and Duwon Tolbert.
"We have to find where (the DeRidder defense) isn't looking," Causey said. "When you have two teams that are evenly matched, you have to find a mismatch somewhere. You have to work a little harder in the things you do."
Similar to Croker, DeRidder leans on Greg Woodard to make plays in the running and receiving game. Woodard had two receiving touchdowns last week against Tioga.
Dragons quarterback Lane Armer has nine total touchdowns over the last two weeks and has improved throughout the year.
"Lane has been playing well," Parmley said. "He's a great young man and great player. We're happy he's on our sideline, and hopefully, he continues to progress and get better."
Along with Woodard, Armer's targets in the passing game are Dre Bagley and Chris Grant, while Torrin Bouvia is the go-to guy in the running game.
"DeRidder is a highly reputable team this year," Causey said. "They're explosive on offense, and their defense hasn't given up many points. Coach Parmley has done a great job. He's made our work a little more difficult this week.
"It's hard coaching against speed and it's hard replicating speed. You do things in practice to help show the kids how fast the offense is going to run. They have playmakers everywhere and you can't cover everybody. They've done a great job of opening up their offense and utilizing the skill kids that they have."
Both defenses have been dominant throughout the year, with Leesville giving up 18.4 points per game and DeRidder allowing 12.7 points per game. The matchup could be dominated by defense or could be shootout, and with both of these teams on the field, Parmley always expects it to be a good football game.
"Any time these two teams play, the records don't matter," Parmley said. "It's always been a good ball game from both sides. We're hoping for another one this Friday."