It's the biggest week of the regular season for both the Detroit Lakes and Perham football teams. In the "Battle of the Paddle," the Lakers hope to keep the traveling trophy on their side of Highway 10.
Detroit Lakes (2-1) is coming off its most prominent win of the season in a 28-0 drubbing of Thief River Falls (0-3).
"This is a very improved Thief River Falls team," Lakers' head coach Reed Hefta said after Friday's game. "They're going to be dangerous in the future. Their coaches have them going in the right direction."
Perham was in a similar game at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton on Friday night, but ended up on the wrong side. The Yellowjackets fell 48-0 on the road to fall to 2-1 on the season.
The Lakers are coming off their second win in a row behind their standout defense, which will be tested against Perham senior quarterback Colton Hackel. Hackel committed to play Division I football at the University of North Dakota on Sunday. Hefta understands that Perham's star player is going to make his presence known.
"You just have to know that he's going to make plays every now and then," Hefta said. "We have to make sure that we rally to the football. He's a kid that can make a play out of everything. He kicks for them, he's played wide receiver for them in the past and he's just a tough-nosed athlete. He's a kid that we've been familiar with for a very long time, and he's just an amazing young man. It's fun to compete against one of those highlight athletes in the area."
When Perham and Detroit Lakes hit the gridiron, all bets are off. Lakers' senior Ty Jones, who caught his first touchdown of the season on Friday against TRF, is excited to play against the familiar faces from down the road one more time.
"This game is everything," Jones said. "We talk all year long about this game. We're all friends, and we play with these guys in the summers and stuff, but once it's game time, we're ready to go."
While the "Battle for the Paddle" is a rivalry game, there's a mutual level of respect and friendship between the two schools.
"For the last nine years, or at least since I've been here, we've had traveling trophy," Hefta said. "It's the game on Highway 10. There's nothing bigger in the regular season. These kids know each other, and they grew up together. They have a really great foundation there. Coach (Aaron) Velde is a guy that I've leaned on as we're both new head coaches in the area."
In games like this, it doesn't matter where each team sits in the regular season. The record books are thrown out on the opening kickoff, and both teams prepare for a dog fight.
"They've always played us tough," Hefta said. "It doesn't matter how each team has played in the games before this one. Everybody rises to the occasion. We can never overlook anything about Perham. They do such a good job of highlighting their athletes and setting them up to be successful. We need to make sure that we're so disciplined in everything we do. If we aren't, they'll make something happen."
After Friday's win over TRF, Hefta already had the juices flowing thinking about the crowd at Perham High School. Hefta smiled from ear to ear, talking about the atmosphere when these two teams meet once a year.
"It's fun to see these communities at this kind of a game," Hefta said. "It will probably be one of the crazier atmospheres we'll play in all year. It's intense. It's the Highway 10 Super Bowl."