By MICHAEL KELLY
FONDA -- The Fonda-Fultonville Braves know one thing for certain about today's meeting with the Watervliet Cannoneers: It's going to be rough out there.
That's just how it goes between the Braves and the Cannoneers, one of Section II's most intense rivalries in recent years.
"It doesn't matter if they're good and we're bad, or if they're bad and we're good," says F-F senior quarterback Russ Williams. "It doesn't matter because it's always going to be a battle."
"It's going to be a physical game, a vigorous game," junior linebacker Zach Nizet says.
The Braves declined to state the obvious in the week leading up to today's 1 p.m. Section II Class C South Division game, but it is pretty obvious to any onlooker that the players on both teams simply do not care that much for one another. F-F and Watervliet play each other in every sport, as the schools' non-football teams all play in the Colonial Council, giving the Braves and Cannoneers time to tussle through multiple mediums.
"They're an extremely aggressive team, and Watervliet-Fonda over the past few years -- whether it's basketball or football -- it's been a rivalry," says Braves senior tight end/defensive end Will Turner, who is the basketball team's center. "It's a fun game to play in."
That's extra true in recent years -- especially for the Braves. In the past two years, F-F has swept Watervliet in a pair of memorable games. Back in 2011, the Braves prevailed in a 15-14 decision on a muddy field in Fonda not long after Tropical Storm Irene moved through the area. The next year, F-F took a 6-0 decision in Watervliet; in that contest, then-sophomore halfback Pat Hart rushed 40 times for 217 yards and the game's lone score.
Besides the outcome, the main similarity between the two games was a hard-hitting nature.
"I'm expecting the same thing this year," Turner says.
"The past few years, they've been a very tough opponent for us," says F-F senior lineman Steve Dunbar. "We really need to make sure we're into this game and focused."
That should not be too hard for the teams, which both need today's divisional win in order to keep their respective hopes high to claim a South Division title. With that in mind, Watervliet head coach Brian Hoefer -- in his first season at the Cannoneers' helm -- says his coaching staff has downplayed the contest's rivalry angle.
"Our focus has been to prepare as best we can, play as hard as we can, practice as hard as we can, and come out on game day and be the dictator of the game," Hoefer says.
Both teams will jockey to impose their will on today's game. If the contest is anything like the clubs' recent meetings, the outcome should come right down to the wire.
"I know we're going to get their best shot," says F-F senior wide receiver Brandon Baker. "I know this will be another good game."