WESTVILLE — The Coal Bucket has always held high importance to the communities of Westville, Georgetown and the surrounding area. But tonight’s game between the two Vermilion Valley Conference rivals may have more stories surrounding it than any other.
The biggest story on the field is that these two teams are coming into the game each at 4-4. With the strength of schedule being very good for both teams, it is more than likely that the winner of tonight’s contest is in the playoffs. The loser is not.
“Everybody who’s been around Vermillion County knows how important this game is and understands the importance.” Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman coach Josh Cavanaugh said. “(Westville coach Guy Goodlove) and I don’t have to explain how important this one is to our kids.”
“This game is a game that you don’t have to worry about your players being motivated,” Goodlove said. “There’s an extra focus that you don’t see. There’s a different attitude and intensity from Monday on. All the players are aware of how important this game is.”
Westville comes into the contest with a four-game winning streak after suffering a four-game losing streak to start the season.
“You would think losing the first four games would damage a team’s enthusiasm,” Goodlove said. “Our kids just kept working hard and played with a love for the game. With that kind of attitude it was just a matter of time before we turned it around.”
Goodlove credited the turn around to improvements at key positions.
“Our improvement came from the improvement of our offensive line, and our playmakers making plays. We started taking advantage of our opportunities and that’s been the difference.” Goodlove said.
For the Buffaloes, they started off the season 4-2 and are coming off back to back losses to the top two teams in the conference.
“One of the tough things about our schedule is that our top opponents are all in the last 3 or 4 weeks,” Cavanaugh said. “But even with the those games, unless you’ve played or coached in the Coal Bucket game before, I don’t know if you truly can be prepared for it. It’s more physical, more emotional, more detailed. With the last few years the game has come down to the final minutes and the final drive and you really have to finish the game.”
On top of the special game on the field there will be several off the field festivities as well. It is Senior Night for the Westville Tigers as well as the 50th Anniversary of the Coal Bucket itself.
“It’s been a big deal since it started,” Cassie Haugen, who is in charge of the festivities said. “In 1960, the rivalry was pretty harsh, but fun. The teams didn’t play in ‘61 or ‘62 to cool things off a little bit and then they played again in ‘63 and the bucket started. It’s been the same coal bucket ever since.”
There will be a special pre-game ceremony including members of the 1963 teams. Westville Coach Terry Ave will be a part of the festivities as well as 1963 captains Dennis Watson (Westville) and Jim Gaylen (Georgetown) will take part in the coin toss.
There will also be a commemorative program featuring the 1963 teams.
Other members of the 1963 team and cheerleaders will also be recognized.
After the game, the Westville American Legion will be hosting a Sock-Hop featuring 1960’s music and a slide show from the two schools and the games.
Elsewhere in the conference, Salt Fork will host Oakwood/Armstrong Potomac in a game at Jamaica. Hoopeston Area will play at Milford and the Bismarck-Henning Blue Devils look to finish the regular season undefeated as they host Arthur-Lovington.