Playoff spots and key streaks on the line in 101st East-West Game on Friday

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FAIRMONT, W.Va. – The longest continuously running rivalry in West Virginia high school football will be renewed on Friday night in Fairmont, as the East Fairmont Bees (5-4) and Fairmont Senior Polar Bears (4-4) battle at East-West Stadium.

This will be the 101st edition of this rivalry, which dates back to 1921 with the inception of East Fairmont High. Few times over the year has as much been on the line when these two teams get together as there will be this meeting.

“Any time you’re having a rivalry game, or doing something for the 101st time it’s a big deal. And then of course, there’s a little added flavor this year, serving as a quasi-playoff game also. Everything, really, you can ask for in a rivalry game,” said Fairmont Senor head coach, Nick Bartic, who is 4-0 against the Bees.

Most importantly, both teams need a win Friday to have a chance at making it to the postseason.

It’d potentially be the ninth-straight playoff appearance for the Polar Bears, but could help lead to the first postseason trip since 2007 for East Fairmont.

“It’s the oldest rivalry in the state, and one of the oldest in the country, continuously. So, you know it’s a big deal about that. We told our guys, it’s the first game for the next 100 years. It’s pretty exciting, just in the fact that it’s a city rival. It’s definitely an important game,” said East Fairmont head coach, Shane Eakle.

In order for either of these teams to make the playoffs, they would have to win the East-West game, and then get some help from some of the other teams in Double-A.

Playoffs, aside, there are plenty of other streaks on the line, too.

For Fairmont Senior: a loss would end 16 straight years of finishing with a record at or above .500. That’s one of the longest streaks in the state. A loss on Friday would also snap a 13-game winning streak against the Bees.

“For our guys, it’s not something that they’re unfamiliar with, but this is a new opportunity, when it comes to the East-West game. There’s always that excitement, now there’s a little added excitement to the game,” Bartic said.

For East Fairmont: the Bees are not only looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007, but they are also looking to have their first winning season since ’07, as well. Not only could a 13-year playoff drought come to an end, but a win on Friday could potentially vault the the Bees into the playoffs for just the fourth time in program history.

“Our guys know. It’s one of those things where it’s the first time in a long time East Fairmont has a playoff berth possibility in Week 11, and we’re excited about that. That was one of our goals back in August,” said Eakle. “It definitely adds a little bit to game since it’s like an early playoff game on Friday night.”

Even though the two teams share East-West Stadium, East Fairmont is the ‘home’ team Friday night.

“We would love to see a lot of blue and gold in the stands. We’d love to make this a very pro-East Fairmont crowd, and pack the stadium,” Eakle said. “It’s exciting for these young men to get to play in that type of atmosphere.”

While East Fairmont has been looking to get back into the playoffs all season long, Fairmont Senior has been fighting to stay in the playoff picture for over a month after losing three of their first five games of the season.

“We’ve been in a little bit of survival mode for a few weeks now, but at the same time that only works if you’re winning and you’re successful. Hopefully, we’re able to continue to do enough to get the win,” Bartic said.

The biggest keys for Friday night, according to Eakle, is not turning the ball over, not making any ill-timed penalties, and not allowing the Polar Bears to create a lot of big plays.

On the other side, Bartic stressed the importance of his players settling into the game early, and not getting caught up in the atmosphere and the storylines surrounding the latest installment of this rivalry.

The Bees and Polar Bears will square off Friday night at 7 p.m.

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