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Memorial and Central to open season with Battle for the Mangy Lion

ELKHART, Ind. - Every team gets excited for Week One of the high school football season, but what about playing your biggest rival to start the year?

That certainly adds some juice.

And it’s exactly what Elkhart Central and Elkhart Memorial will experience in a few days.

The Battle for the Mangy Lion is one of the best-known local rivalries, with a unique traveling trophy that the winner gets to keep in its halls for a year.

“I think anybody’s going to be pumped up for their first football game,” said Central coach Josh Shattuck, who led the Blazers to a win in last season's matchup. “When it’s a rivalry, that does motivate the kids a little bit more.”

Central and Memorial have played each season since the old Elkhart High School split in the early 1970s, and with the coming merger are now playing the final few installations of the matchup.

With all of that history adding to the already electric atmosphere, the coaches believe their players understand what’s at stake each time these two meet.

“You have to address it because everybody in the city does,” said Memorial coach Scot Shaw. “The fact that it’s Central and everything is not lost on us. We obviously want to win the Mangy and be kings of the city.”

“It’s human nature,” Shattuck said of the excitement. “It gets to be coach-speak a little when you try saying it’s just another game. It’s not.”

While the game will surely be highly-anticipated as usual, both teams are actually hoping it will spark a turnaround from last year.

Both squads experienced up-and-down seasons in 2017: the Chargers went just 2-9 while the Blazers also finished under .500 at 4-6.

Now, both teams return with higher expectations for 2018, and it all starts on Friday.

“They’ve met every challenge we’ve thrown at them,” Shaw said of Memorial’s offseason.  “We’re all optimistic at this point in the season. We’ll see after Week One and Week Two how it progresses.”

“We’re 100 percent responsible and accountable for the results in 2018” Shattuck said, adding that there are no excuses now with a full year of his staff’s work in place. “We feel like the things we’ve preached [are sticking], and it’s a smoother operation for sure. But it has to come out on Fridays.”

The two rivals will meet at Memorial's Charger Field for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

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