Natchez heads to Vidalia for Friday night game

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 17, 2009

VIDALIA — Cross-state rivalries are always a big deal — just look at Ohio State and Michigan, Texas and Oklahoma or, ever since Nick Saban’s return to college football, LSU and Alabama.

When two schools are in close proximity to each other, however, and players at both schools know each other well, the rivalry can be even more intense.

When the varsity boys for Natchez High School and Vidalia High School square off Friday, coaches at both schools are expecting to see that prove true.

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“It’s a good rivalry to play in with them being right across the bridge,” Natchez assistant coach David Haywood said. “It’s good for kids on both ends. Both teams are talented and it will bring good competition.”

Vidalia head coach Robert Sanders also thinks the game will be intense because of the closeness factor.

“Just because of the proximity (of both schools) it’s a natural rivalry,” Sanders said. “Because it’s across state lines, that makes it more intense.

“It ranks up there with the Ferriday-Vidalia rivalry. A lot of these kids know each other and play each other in the summer, so that adds to it.”

It’s been four years since Vidalia and Natchez tipped off on the court, but the off years weren’t for lack of trying, Sanders said.

“We’ve tried every year, but fortunately this year we both had the same open date,” he said. “This is the first time in a while that we’ve both had a common open date.”

Haywood said a lot of work went into coordinating both teams’ schedules to create a common open date.

“There were a bunch of phone calls back and forth trying to move games around,” Haywood said. “Both sides were pushing to arrange the games on our schedule so we could play, and we made it happen.”

Haywood also said that he has big expectations for both teams when they hit the floor Friday.

“I’m expecting Vidalia to press the whole time,” Haywood said. “It’s a small gym, and a rather short court, so they should be causing a bunch of chaos.

“The (Gary) Stewart kid and (Torrey Dixon), they’re two really good players. Anytime you can get two of those kinds of players, and just get decent production from the others, you have a formula to put together a good team.”

Sanders said he’s not too familiar with the Natchez boys, but that he also expects them to bring a good game to the court Friday.

“I don’t know a whole lot about them, but I’m sure they’ll present a formidable challenge,” Sanders said. “I saw them a little bit against Lawrence County (Tuesday), but haven’t seen much else. However, I’m sure it’ll be a big challenge.”

The game starts at 5 p.m. at Vidalia High School.