Only in sports could the buildup surrounding an upcoming football game be centered around a refurbished piece of railroad.
The Boundary Rail, a section of railroad track that used to parallel U.S. 40, will be up for grabs Friday night (7:30 p.m.) at New Palestine’s Kelso Stadium as 4A No. 7 Mt. Vernon and the Dragons clash for the 49th time.
The Rail is among the items the Marauders have on their list of ambitions this season. MV was able to check off one of those goals last week at Delta, throttling the Eagles 35-0 and capturing the outright Hoosier Heritage Conference championship.
Since the trophy’s introduction in 2005, no Mt. Vernon team has raised the rail. MV’s last victory over NP was a 17-14 triumph in the sectional semifinals on Nov. 3, 2006, but the rail is a regular-season prize, and the Marauders’ last win of that sort was a 38-6 victory on Oct. 17, 2003.
The connection between the two teams runs deeper than iron and steel. Mt. Vernon coach Doug Armstrong was the head man at New Palestine from 2002-08, winning two HHC and sectional titles.
“Honestly, it was so long since I was there. I’m not coaching against any kids I weight-trained or coached at all,” said Armstrong, now in his second season at MV. “The coaches over there are friends of mine and are loyal to me.
“It’s just about…my job is to win as many games for Mt. Vernon as I can.”
Rookie NP coach Charlie Hill was an assistant under Armstrong for five seasons, and said Armstrong taught him the finer points of breaking down an opponent and its tendencies. But Hill was also steadfast in his belief that Friday’s tilt is more than just another game for his former boss.
“I think the Boundary Rail and some of the other things are of little or no consequence to him,” Hill said. “I’m sure he’s got a burning passion to beat New Pal and not just win by a point or two. I’m sure we’ll see an amped-up Mt. Vernon team. I think they’re looking to win and to win big.
“It’ll make for a raucous Friday night if we’re ready to compete.”