For the first time in nearly 20 years, the roles are reversed in the Jug Game rivalry.
Hudson Falls was the team holding the red-and-green ceramic whiskey jug during practice this week; Glens Falls will try to reclaim it when they meet Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in Hudson Falls.
There’s also second place in Class B West and a home playoff game riding on the outcome of the 43rd Jug Game — Glens Falls comes in at 3-1 in the division, 5-1 overall, while the Tigers are 3-1, 4-2.
“It means the world to us; we worked real hard this year,” Hudson Falls senior linebacker Dusty Cleveland said. “We’re going to do everything we can to defend it.”
“It’s not a normal spot to be in for us,” Tigers senior quarterback Dalton Hogan said. “I wouldn’t say we’re defending it — we’re trying to win the Jug again.”
Hudson Falls won the Jug for the first time since 1997 with a 43-35 victory last year, as now-graduated standout Geno Brancati rushed for 333 yards and four touchdowns.
“It stung. It definitely gives us another incentive to steal it back,” Indians senior linebacker Nolan Murphy said. “It’s a little different when you’re trying to win it back and not defend it.”
While the rivalry dates back to 1917, the Jug Game has been contested since 1967, with Glens Falls holding a 32-10 lead in the series, and 54-37-1 all-time. The game was dormant for several years before being restored when Glens Falls dropped back to Class B in 2012.
The Tigers’ win last year snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Indians.
“The kids are excited and the fact that it’s for something — a home playoff game — that makes it even bigger,” Hudson Falls head coach Bill Strong said. “This game is big on its own, (even) if both teams are 0-for, it’s huge. This game can make or break your season.”
On Saturday, the Tigers will have their hands full trying to contain an explosive Glens Falls team that is coming off a stunning 33-0 loss to Schuylerville.
“Obviously last week we ran into a little bit of a buzzsaw, but I think we’re playing aggressive, tough and hard, and we can play a little smarter,” Indians head coach Pat Lilac said. “I think we put the Schuylerville game behind us and we’re looking to move on, grow and get better.”
Players like Aaron Sampson, Reed Miner and brothers Nolan and Andrew Murphy are just a few of the speedy weapons the Indians have. Strong said the Tigers will have to contain Glens Falls with the kicking game, and control the ball with the run.
“In a high school game, a 48-minute game, possessions are key — you only get so many times with the ball,” Strong said. “Quick three-and-outs are deadly in a high school game — it’s different when you have 60 minutes in college and pros, there’s time to recover, there’s time to score.”
“For us, we’re just going to try to sustain drives; that’s the biggest thing with them — you can’t go three-and-out and expect to beat Glens Falls,” Hogan said.
The Indians, meanwhile, must contend with Hudson Falls’ physical play and sharp passing game, led by Hogan and top targets Taylor Lane and Anthony Davis.
“You know (Hogan) was going to be a valuable weapon throwing the ball, but as the season’s gone on, he’s been able to run the ball and become a dual-threat kid, and that’s been the difference to their season,” Lilac said.
“They’re going to be very physical, they have the home-field advantage, there should be a lot of people there,” Indians senior lineman Anthony Schiavo said. “We just have to play harder and more physical than them.”
With a chance to avoid Class B Reinfurt powers Schalmont and Ravena with a win, Saturday’s game looms large.
“We both would really like that two-seed; it’s huge, it changes things — you don’t have to play Schalmont or Ravena, you get Lansingburgh at home. That’s a big swing right there,” Hogan said. “You throw the Jug in on top there, and it means a lot more.”
Hudson Falls will also honor the 50th anniversary of the Tigers’ 1965 championship team, the last football team in Section II to go undefeated and unscored upon. Former coach Bob Ryan and several members of that team are expected to be on hand for the pregame coin flip.