Oct. 27—Expect Walton Field to go out with a bang as the host of the Edward Little-Lewiston football rivalry.
The longtime gridiron home of the Red Eddies will be the setting once more — one last time — when Edward Little and Lewiston meet for a Class A regular-season finale Friday night.
For the Red Eddies (2-6), it will be the end of their 2022 campaign and their last game at Walton Field. They don't have playoffs to look forward to, but the Walton Field send-off and the cross-river rivalry provide plenty of motivation.
First-year Edward Little coach Rick Kramer, a former assistant for the Eddies, said that he thinks the home crowd might be an X-factor in Friday's game.
"No telling what their energy, noise and support could do to the game," Kramer said.
And despite the losing record the Red Eddies bring into the game, first-year Lewiston (4-3) coach Jason Versey is preparing the Blue Devils for an Edward Little team that he thinks hasn't quit on the season.
"On film, from our first exhibition game (against Edward Little on Aug. 26) up to their game last week against Scarborough, I see them playing like a team. I see them supporting one another and cheering each other on through all four quarters on the field and on sideline, winning or losing. There's no quit in those players," Versey said. "When a team starts doing that, they're incredibly dangerous. Collectively, they are powerful, and I deeply respect that."
"Respect" is not always a word associated with rivalries, but Kramer used the same word when talking about Versey, the Lewiston coaching staff and the Blue Devils players.
"They are building a quality program and I have had nothing but positive interactions with staff and players," Kramer said.
From his scouting of the Blue Devils, Kramer noted that Lewiston does a good job on offense of getting the ball to its playmakers — of which, he said, the Blue Devils have many. And the offense's effectiveness comes from its line play. On defense, Kramer said, the Blue Devils aren't afraid to put their defenders in one-on-one matchups.
Versey highlighted some of his key defensive players in defensive back Jibril Holloman, lineman Joseph Dube and linebacker Jaden Maynard. And, he adds, Eli Bigelow, Farid Muhammad-Aceto and Wyatt Vallee have been effective on both sides of the ball.
The key for the Red Eddies, Kramer said, is for the players to support each other throughout the game and to finish plays on offense and defense.
Kramer also noted that the Edward Little seniors have a job to do.
"Our entire senior class has yet to beat Lewiston," he said. "Their energy, mindset and focus will be instrumental in the Battle of the Bridge."
Versey sees a dangerous Edward Little team on film.
"On offense, they are fabulously unconventional by design. We really do need to be ready for everything and anything," he said. "That is no easy chore."
The Blue Devils coach said he's been impressed with Edward Little senior quarterback Tate Morse, noting that "he throws the ball very well and is not afraid to take chances." Versey also said that senior back/receiver Tyler Grenier "runs the ball hard and is very quick."
Versey is quick to point out, however, that Edward Little's successes haven't been about any individuals.
The Red Eddies defense, in his view, plays physical and aggressive and is full of "tough kids."
Lewiston, playing in enemy territory, will have to stay even-keeled mentally. Versey said that means moving on to the next play and staying away from overly emotional penalties or plays.
"We have had pointless penalties and several touchdowns called back in key moments this year because of overly aggressive play. We've improved greatly in that area since the beginning of the season, but we need to keep it going. This week, especially, as we face a disciplined and well-coached EL team," Versey said. "It's a tall order, given that everyone in L-A understands that the Battle of The Bridge rivalry always has the potential for passions to run high on both sides."
While the game marks the end of Walton Field's run as Edward Little's home field, Friday's matchup marks the first regular-season matchup between Versey and Kramer.
Kramer called his first chance getting to participate in the rivalry as head coach "very special."
"I am honored to coach this team and represent former, present and future Eddies," he said. "I hope this game can lead to a resurgence of football in the Twin Cities."
"Players, coaches and townspeople remember this game. Everyone has a memory from one of these contests. I hope our kids remember they played their hearts out," Kramer added. "In summary, I hope this game is the beginning of a new chapter for the rivalry. Our kids want the best Lewiston has to offer and my goal is to have our kids give their best and have a good clean game."
Versey is no stranger to the rivalry, having played in it during his career at Lewiston High School. In fact, seven of his eight assistant coaches have played in the rivalry for Lewiston, with Versey saying the staff is "dripping with Blue Devil football pride."
It being Walton Field's last hurrah will make for a homecoming of sorts for both schools, Versey said.
"A lot of young men, myself included, from the Twin Cities have shed their blood, sweat and tears on that field," Versey said. "I'm confident it will be a very nostalgic night with a sea of maroon and royal blue all around that historic field. I know the atmosphere will be electric. It's going to be a great night."