On Saturday, Eastside boys basketball head coach Michael Gerald will attempt to do something he has yet to accomplish against the crosstown rival Rams in three years: win.
The Eagles (3-0) are 0-6 against Newton under the direction of Gerald; however, that might very well change within the next 48 hours when they host the Rams (1-0) this weekend.
"I think it's good for both teams, but I look at it as we're just playing another team," said Gerald regarding the heated rivalry. "One thing that we've tried to really express this year is that we take every game one at a time, so whoever we're facing next that's the team that we're focusing on.
"We're not going to look at (this) as it being any more important than the next game," added Gerald.
Last year Eastside lost to the Rams twice, 62-49 and 70-55. But during the 2005-06 campaign, the battles were a bit closer, with the Eagles falling 43-41 and 54-47. And in 2004-05 they were even closer, as Eastside lost 52-45 and 53-52.
Since the crosstown series officially began seven years ago, Newton owns a 12-2 record over Eastside.
"Well, the kids know it's not just another game," remarked Newton head coach Rick Rasmussen. "It's always fun to play people you know. I think it's more fun and exciting to a certain extent (for) the kids and the fans; it's bragging rights for the student body."
This season the Eagles have started off 3-0 thanks to winning the Pope Tournament last week. In fact, last year it took until Dec. 15 for them to win their third game.
"These guys understand that when they step on the floor they're expected to do certain things," said Gerald. "As a result we've had some success, at least (during) the first week into the season. I think they embrace it and they know that if they do what they're being coached to do then the opportunity is going to present itself."
But Gerald isn't the only one to have taken notice of his team's improvement on the hardwood this year, despite it only being the second week of play.
"Eastside has done well early," praised Rasmussen. "They'll probably be as confident as they can possibly be all year. It's always good to start with some momentum, so they've done a good job of building that up heading into this game."
Come Saturday though all records will be tossed out the door.
Both Gerald and Rasmussen each stress the importance of not adapting on the floor to suit the other team's needs, meaning each wants to play their own game. For that reason alone it should be quite an interesting and exciting matchup.
"The biggest thing we want to do is be who we are," said Rasmussen. "We're not trying to be them, and we won't change what we do for them. We want to concentrate on being us. If we do what we're supposed to do (then) we'll give ourselves a chance."
Gerald echoes a similar philosophy heading into the marquee game at the Nest.
"Our biggest concern about them is playing at their speed," noted Gerald of the Rams. "They do what they do well, and if we allow them to do (that) they have success. We can't allow them to dictate how the game is played. The concern of mine is that we don't play that style. We need to stay at our comfort level."
And should the Eagles fly at the abovementioned altitude then they should come out on top, which of course would be a first for Gerald.
"It'll be a challenge," noted Rasmussen. "On the road you find out how tough your kids are. You'll have ups and downs, but I don't think either team will quit because it means too much."