Junction City

Junction City players walking out on the field to play Haynesville in 2017.

JUNCTION CITY, Ark. - Junction City, Ark. and Haynesville, La. are separated by about 30 miles, but just began playing football against each other in 2015.

With 24 titles combined (7 for Junction City, 17 Haynesville) Friday night's clash matches two powerhouse programs.

"In my time of coaching we never played and that was one of the games that we always wanted to play," Haynesville head coach David Franklin said. "People in Junction wanted to see it, people in Haynesville wanted to see it so it's been an exciting rivalry the last four, five years."

Haynesville leads the series three games to one with the Dragons and Golden Tornado splitting the matchups the past two seasons.

"We kind of got the upperhand on them in '17 and they really got the upperhand on us in '18, but it's a great contest," JC head coach Brad Smith explained.

While the games get pretty competitive, there's a healthy amount of respect between Franklin and Smith.

"(I'm) friends with the coaching staff, coach Franklin, watched his father (Red) for years, respect his father," Smith said. "Went to college (at Louisiana Tech) with coach Franklin. Had a few classes with him, always liked him. Does a great job, has a great program and anytime you can play Haynesville, you're the better team for playing them win, lose or draw."

Franklin added, "It's fun because traditionally Junction has been one of the better teams in small class in Arkansas and traditionally we've been one of the better teams in North Louisiana, so I guess it's border bragging rights for the two teams."

The coaches have to keep their focus on the field, but there's no avoiding the conversations in town.

"You know the people in the community are talking about it and that's what makes it exciting because just talking about it, the kids hear about it and that's just what makes the rivalry more exciting is because it's more people involved. It's more than just the game," Franklin described. 

Smith explained what he hears around town.

"'We've got to win, we have to do this. We've got to beat them' and I'm sure Coach Franklin is hearing the same thing and you just go out and play ball and do the best you can and let the chips fall where they may.

"Young men play it, we don't. If it was me and Franklin playing I wouldn't do it because he's younger and stronger and I know he's faster than I am so we'd have to figure out some other way to do it there, but just let our kids go at it and get after it and compete and have a good time."

This year's game takes place at Junction City and kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

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