125th Battle of the Ax: New Twists, Old Rivalry
SHERMAN, Texas (KTEN) - No two teams have faced each other in the lone star state more than Denison and Sherman. This year the rivalry renews for the 125th edition.
"It's electric," said Sherman radio announcer Jay Lindly. "It's a playoff atmosphere and it's really different considering it's game one of the season now. It really doesn't matter what the records are."
For the first time since this historic rivalry began in 1901, an alumnus will lead their respective school as 2004 Sherman graduate Josh Aleman gets to coach the school he played for this season. His staff is filled with fellow Bearcats as well.
"He understands what its about," said co-defensive coordinator and 1997 Sherman graduate Kenny Wilkerson. "He understands the emphasis that the community is putting on it and what it means to these kids. He really understands the impact it has on all of us together and how big this win can be."
"We know the emotions these kids are going to have," said Aleman. "So, we're just trying to tell them to focus on us and don't worry about the distractions."
Sherman's six alumni coaches will stare across the field Friday night at a staff with five former Yellow Jackets.
"I'm sure it's special for them," said Denison head coach Brent Whitson. "Coaches are coaches as far as I'm concerned... As long as their doing it our way and our guys do."
"Man it's cool," said Aleman. "I played against Vinny Rhodes over there for four years man it's awesome just to be back in the rivalry with them and they're investing in their community just like we're investing in our community."
Aleman and Rhodes will renew their rivalry on the same field they played on in the early 2000s but this is expected to be the last 'Battle of the Ax' for Bearcat Stadium, opened in 1940. The new stadium at Sherman High School is on timeline to be done in 2025.
"It's a WPA stadium so yes it's old but it's our home," said Lindly. "That's the thing I've always liked about it. I've always respected the history of it, the uniqueness of it, the natural grass, the stadium sitting next to the highway, you've got the municipal building behind. It's just a very unique location."
Just 11 miles separate these two towns, and while people on both sides may run into each other at the grocery store or at church, there is no gray area when you're asked if you're a Yellow Jacket or a Bearcat come Friday night.
"It's a big game because we're kind of family," said Lynn Burkhead. "There are literally family members on one side and other family members on the other side. Over the years, there have been husbands and wives, one went to Sherman, one went to Denison... There really are some houses divided."
"If you ask anybody around here it's everything," said Aleman. "This game is the biggest game that we'll play all year and it is what it is... Let's go."
Kickoff is set for 8:00 p.m. Friday night at Bearcat Stadium.