As they prepare to clash for what might be the last time, Princeton Community and Mount Carmel football teams are fit to be tied.

Literally. Friday’s 7 p.m. matchup at PCHS will break a tie in the river rivalry that began in 1920. Each program has won 29 times; there have been five ties. The Tigers have won the last two meetings and three of the last four, including 14-6 in Mount Carmel last September 14.

The Illinoisans might be fit to be tied for another reason. Currently they have no conference, having withdrawn from the Big Eight after last school year.

Thus Friday’s clash is non-league. And while the Tigers will begin play in all sports in the Pocket Athletic Conference the 2020-21 school year, Mount Carmel is apt to be an independent. It withdrew from the Big Eight because the Illinois High School Association passed a rule that every member football team must play its district opponents the regular season starting in 2020.

Maybe not. According to one source, who will remain anonymous, the IHSA may scrap that rule.

Anyway, the Golden Aces may go their way, whatever it is, with their best season in a few years, since they opened with a 42-14 win over Harrisburg, Illinois, and followed with last Friday’s 30-24 win over Indiana’s Mount Vernon.

“Mount Carmel is better than it has been the last two years,” said Princeton Coach Jared Maners, whose Tigers are fresh from a 24-7 win at potential 3A sectional foe Washington. This after losses to the 5A duo of Evansville North and Terre Haute North by 49-7 and 38-0.

“Their quarterback (6-foot-7, 230-pound junior Kaleb Applebey) can either hand off or keep the ball and run in their multiple-options offense. So we must play disciplined defense. Their Zeke Hadra (170-pound sophomore) is a pretty good running back.

“They also play sound defense. We must make their secondary cover a lot of field,” said Maners.

“Princeton looks physical. They’re big upfront both offensively and defensively, they have dynamic receivers in Dominic Hardiman and Braden Matthews, and Gerit Bock at quarterback can both pass and run,” Golden Aces Coach Michael Brewer said.

“We feel good about a 2-0 start, but we must play better defense than we played against Mount Vernon. Offensively, we must eliminate mistakes and not put ourselves in second-and-12 or second-and-15 situations.”

Maners said the Tigers will again be without senior running back and defensive back Darrion Madison due to a foot sprain the first series at Terre Haute North. “Darrion’s doctor appointment is late next week, so we don’t expect him back until Sept. 27 at Jasper,” said the coach, who said senior Jarrett Market will start at cornerback after missing two games due to a concussion vs. Evansville North.

“We’ll move Jarrett from safety, because Bock has played well there and we want our 11 best players on the field,” said Maners, who informed that Hardiman’s 11 pass catches at Terre Haute North are a school record.

Mount Carmel has won despite injuries. “Elijah Laws, our senior offensive guard and defensive tackle who has been All-Big Eight, tore an ACL against Harrisburg and is done for the season,” Brewer reported.

“Luke Laws, his sophomore brother who also started at offensive guard and on defense, also tore an ACL.”

Yet another Laws, 230-pound junior Elliot, will start at offensive guard and in the defensive line. Appleby and Hadra will be joined in the backfield by 180-poud senior Caleb Norrick. Junior Beau Schipp and senior Rayce Loudermilk are wide receivers, 195-pound senior Kyle Kane the tight end. Senior Trent Rafferty centers, flanked by Elliot Laws and senior Jonas Martin. Junior T.J. Mobley (210) and sophomore Eli Swanson (225) man the tackles.

Junior Ben Heidenreich, who rushed 93 yards at Washington, and classmate Joe Koberstein (200) will join Bock in the Tigers’ backfield. Hardiman (170, junior) and Matthews (210, senior) will be joined by senior Nathan Craven (180) at wide receiver. Junior Briar

Christy (220) centers, flanked by senior Kain Carrol (205) and junior Caleb Hiatt (180) at guard. Seniors Julian Hyneman (260) and Tim Ota (265) will open at tackle. Koberstein at middle linebacker anchors the defense.

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