Northwestern State & McNeese State will miss out on rivalry game for first time in 70 seasons
NATCHITOCHES, La. (KALB) - Rivalry games are a staple in sports, especially when it comes to football as the university, community and teams look forward to the matchup each season. For in-state rivals Northwestern State University and McNeese State University, their rivalry game will not be played this season for the first time since 1951.
This is the result of the Southland Conference having to make schedule changes because of teams rejoining the conference and deciding to stay in the conference. The matchup was originally on Nov. 19, but the Demons will now play the University of Incarnate Word, and McNeese State University will play Lamar University.
When both teams heard the news, it came as a shock because they never thought the day would come when they did not play each other.
For Northwestern State head coach Brad Laird, he said not playing the Cowboys was a hard pill to swallow since they have been his biggest rival, as he was a player at NSU and as current head coach.
“It was tough trying to make sure everyone had the number of home games they needed, but it is unfortunate that we don’t get to play McNeese,” said Laird. “We started that contest before the Southland Conference got going. It is always a tough game, not only for the players, but for both universities and communities because of the history that is behind it.”
Many of the players always look forward to the matchup against the Cowboys because it makes them work harder than before, so they can come out on top with the win, especially when it is against their rival.
This season will be different without the Cowboys on the Demons’ schedule.
“It hurts, I want to play McNeese,” said defensive end Isaiah Longino. “They were a big rival when Coach Laird was playing, and he hated McNeese. I don’t like McNeese.”
“Taking that rivalry away is heartbreaking a little bit because you don’t have that extra fight anymore,” said wide receiver Javon Antonio.
McNeese State has brought Gary Goff as the new head coach for the Cowboys this season, and even though he is new to the program, he knows how much the rival means.
“I’ve coached against them before, and they were really good back then,” said Goff. “I am anxious to go back. It is important it is an in-state rivalry. I mentioned earlier, I’m not sure what team on our schedule is not a rivalry, it seems like they all are, but obviously, that is a game that has been played for quite some time and there are probably some deep feelings about that tradition and that game.”
Southland Conference Commissioner Chris Grant stated this season will be the only one the two teams will not meet on the field.
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