Rivalries are what make football games so exciting. Playing the same teams year after year and generating those intense competitions gives fans, players and coaching staff alike something extra to look for to.

As with every year, Benjamin Russell will have its usual big rivalry game with Opelika which is also a Class 6A Region 3 game and is one the Wildcats always have circled on their calendars. But BRHS also seems to be harvesting some new rivalries, and those will be on display early this season.

Week 1 vs. Clay Central Volunteers

“Do not be No. 300,” Scott Hardy said at the Benjamin Russell football banquet celebrating 2018. This is exactly the game he was referring to.

Danny Horn returns this year. After coaching most of his Hall of Fame career at Clay County, Horn spent nine seasons at Benjamin Russell until 2018 when he went home to Clay Central and led the Volunteers to a Class 5A state championship. Had the Wildcats not defeated Horn’s volunteers in a thrilling comeback a year ago, Horn would’ve celebrated his 300th career victory in that state championship. Instead, Horn was forced to wait one more season.

Although this isn’t Benjamin Russell’s first game of the season, it is the first time the 5A defending state champs will take the field and the first time Horn will be back at the Charles E. Bailey Sportplex since his departure.

This seems to be a developing rivalry, as the teams have played the last five years in a row with Benjamin Russell owning the series, 4-1. Last year’s game was one of the closest in the series as the Wildcats stormed back from a 17-0 deficit to win, 28-23.

After playing Beauregard to open the year, this will be a good test of how Benjamin Russell stacks up against some of the toughest competition in the state.

Week 6 at Opelika Bulldogs

Just like any other year, this is one Benjamin Russell always anticipates. The Wildcats have never played another opponent more than they have Opelika, and in 73 meetings, Benjamin Russell actually narrowly leads the series, 37-33-3.

But that hasn’t been the trend in recent years. Opelika has won five of the last six outings and 10 of the last 12. In those two meetings, BRHS’ only victories have come by a touchdown or less.

In 2017, Benjamin Russell put on one of its best defensive shows of the season, holding a high-potent Opelika offense to just 14 points. However, the Bulldogs turned the tide a year ago, exploding for 29 points and holding the Wildcats to just one Wilson Hays field goal.

Week 7 vs. Wetumpka Indians

For one of its only Thursday night outings of the year, Benjamin Russell ushers in a challenging Wetumpka Indians team. This starts a long home stand for the Wildcats, who end the year with straight home games and a Week 9 bye.

But hopefully BRHS can use its home turf to its advantage as Wetumpka, which has advanced to at least the 6A state semifinals for the last two years in a row, will be extremely tough again this season. This game also usually has great region implications.

Like the Opelika series, Benjamin Russell leads the series with the Indians, 25-16-1, but Wetumpka has dominated of late. Aside from a forfeit in 2011, the Indians have won the last eight times against the Wildcats.

This seems to be a rivalry in the making across all sports for Benjamin Russell and Wetumpka, as the two have either met in region or area play recently or have seemingly been faced up against each other frequently in postseason action.

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.