River Rock Rivalry pushes forward in 2020

Defiance and Napoleon plan to meet late in the football season
Defiance and Napoleon plan to still play its rivalry game this fall.
Published: Aug. 14, 2020 at 11:02 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - As it stands right now, prep football teams in Ohio will play a six-game regular season this year and every team will make the playoffs.

The revised scheduling rules allow for up to four additional regular season games through November 14 if that team choose not to enter the playoffs of loses early in the bracket.

Defiance usually kicks off its season against Napoleon in the River Rock Rivalry.

“When it comes to Defiance-Napoleon, that’s something you work for all off season,” Defiance head coach Kevin Kline said.

The dislike runs deep on the field.

“We have a few punishment things that we do for guys that miss and things,” Kline said. “We call them Napoleons.”

“Napoleons” involve a lot of cardio and moving quickly.

“You miss a workout usually you have a reminder,” Defiance running back Simeon Sweeney said. “Which is sprint half the field, bear crawl, sprint half again, bear crawl.”

It is no different down the road at Napoleon.

“Everyday when we finish a workout - whatever we are doing as a team - our break is ‘Beat Dogs,‘” Napoleon head coach Tory Strock said. “That’s been passed down for generations.”

Both cities are about 18 miles apart and both schools agree this connection needs to still happen in 2020 to the best of what the schedule rules allow. If both teams make deep playoff runs the game likely will not happen.

These two schools played every year except one since 1929 and they first met twice back in 1916.

“These kids have looked forward to that for a long time so you still want to get that game on your schedule,” Kline said. “Now knowing that it could be at the end, I think that keeps our kids engaged for the entire season.”

This schedule change also changes the coaching psychology of trying to push everyone to a high level emotionally in week one of the season.

“It is almost a relief,” Strock said. “Because the pressure and anxiety and stress that you feel playing that rivalry game week one - cause when you win it, it’s a springboard. When you lose it, man you’re trying to regroup for week two.”

The River Rock Rivalry - as it is on the schedule today - is almost a Super Bowl type game for these two schools.

“Those whole six weeks you’re just thinking about Napoleon,” Sweeney said. “You haven’t got the chance to play them yet and you just want to play them after that.”

But with everything today, this can all change in the next two hours.

“We continue to implore upon our kids that we’ve gotta do everything in our power to be accountable and make sure this happens,” Strock said.

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