The intensity that surrounds the week-long buildup to the annual Battle for the Silver Spurs rivalry football game between Monterey and Lubbock High has been understandably subdued this week.
The sudden death of Plainsmen first-year defensive coordinator Reese Fleming has thrown the focus of this game into a different light and has affected not only the Monterey campus but the entire Lubbock Independent School District as a whole.
Fleming died late Monday night after a brief, still undetermined illness. He was 46.
“It’s been a tragic week for us ... losing coach Fleming,” Monterey head coach Todd Pearson said. “We’ve had to wear many hats. There’s a lot of learning you can get from life and we’re preaching that part, and the other coaches have handled it well.
“We know he would want us to go on in a positive direction and that’s what we’re pushing with our kids. He started something on defense and we’re going to finish it, and the kids know that, and that’s the task and the challenge they’ve had going into this week.”
A video tribute and moment of silence will be held prior to tonight’s 8 p.m. kickoff at Lowrey Field, and Lubbock High will wear special Columbia blue and red stickers with Fleming’s initials on its helmets in tribute.
“It’s a rivalry, but we’re friends,” LHS coach Jason Strunk said. “Our kids know their kids and vice versa, so it’s hard to put into words. I’ve never been involved in a game like this with that happening so it’s new for me, and we’re going to do everything we can to be respectful and help Todd out the best way we can. Our hearts break for them and the Fleming family. We’ll do everything we can to do it right in honor of his memory.”
Still, the game will go on as scheduled, and when the ball is kicked off the two teams will have to regain that intensity due to the fact that there is more riding on this game than there has been in almost four decades.
For the first time since 1975, both the Plainsmen (6-3, 2-2 in District 4-4A) and Westerners (3-6, 2-2) will play beyond this week. The winner today will earn the top seed in the Division I bracket of the playoff and face Palo Duro, while the loser will be the No. 2 seed and face perennial West Texas power Amarillo.
Monterey leads the overall series 45-10-1 and has won four straight and 11 of the last 12 in the 56-year history of the series. This time, however, the Plainsmen are not fighting a Westerner squad already resigned to turning to basketball next week.
“It’s good. There’s been a lot of excitement,” LHS senior defensive tackle Tony Alvarez said. “But we kind of knew we would get there all year. We’ve been headed for this all year and working toward it and everything’s going good. It’s set in.”
The biggest challenge facing the Plainsmen, however, may be internally and being able to put the emotions of the week behind them enough to focus on the game at hand for 48 minutes.
Monterey comes into the game riding a bigger wave of momentum thanks to a two-game winning streak following a stretch where the Plainsmen lost three of four. Wins over Plainview and San Angelo Lake View not only garnered a playoff spot for the Plainsmen, but has gotten them back to the level they were playing at during the first of the season.
“After the Hereford and Frenship games, which were two good opponents, I thought our kids have done a good job of rallying back together and, knowing the situation, were able to take on Plainview and Lake View and get back to some type of execution and confidence,” Pearson said. We’re able to get back-to-back wins and go in with some confidence as I know Jason and his group is being in the playoffs for the first time in 37 years. We have a lot of things on both sides that should contribute to a good game.”
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at Lubbock High
8 p.m., Lowrey Field, Lubbock
Radio: KJAK 92.7 FM (Lubbock)
Records: Monterey 6-3, 2-2 in 4-4A; Lubbock High 3-6, 2-2
Monterey vs. Lubbock High
beat SA Lake View 35-3 Last week lost to Frenship 51-6
401.7 Total offense 305.8
377.3 Total defense 297.8
34.3 Points scored 22.4
28.2 Points allowed 31.1
QB Jacob Bartholomae Player to watch QB Layven Armendariz
(1,040 rushing yards, 14 TDs) (1,983 passing yards, 14 TDs)