REPUBLIC, Mo. — The rivalry between Republic and Willard is anything but new.
“Yeah, we’ve always kind of been rivals with Republic since the beginning of time I guess,” Willard senior wide receiver Brett Hall said. “I’m excited. There’s been some chirping on social media. I’m ready to go.”
But the men leading the two Tiger team’s into that rivalry are new to it.
“I didn’t realize when I first took the job how big a rivalry it is, but it’s become one in every sport,” Willard Head Coach Frank Tristan said. “Both schools are competitive and a lot of the kids know each other. I tell them if you can’t play today then you just can’t play.”
“Knowing it’s right beside us and the rivalry that’s been there with Willard,” Republic Head Coach Ryan Cornelson said. “I know it’s a big game and I know our kids are excited about it.”
Both schools enter Friday’s battle with first year head coaches just a single game into their tenure.
On the Republic side, REPMO is helmed by Ryan Cornelson who joined the Tigers after 20 years coaching in Kansas.
“There’s no doubt I just fell in love with the place,” Cornelson said. “It seemed like a place that I was excited for the opportunity to grow the football program.”
“I think he’s done a great job of rallying us and getting us to trust him and everything,” Republic senior cornerback Hayden Jones said. “I think that’s the biggest thing when you come into a new program is getting the players to trust you and get them to work for you and I think he’s done a really good job of that.”
On the opposite sideline, however, sits a similar situation in Willard first year head coach Frank Tristan who came from Western New Mexico University.
But before that came from right here with time spent at Kickapoo, Hillcrest and Evangel.
“Willard I’ve always known,” Tristan said. “My nephews and niece went here. I’ve always known it’s a great community, a good school system. I thought there was a good idea of that good cohesion in the community. I think I picked well.”
“All the guys really bought in,” Hall said. “He’s been great for our program. Very positive. We all know that he cares about us, like each and every one of us. It’s just been a really good start.”
Two rivals, lining up across from each other, But at the same time standing in each other’s shoes.
“Yeah, it is kind of an interesting dynamic,” Tristan said. “Similar communities and similar situations. He’s done a really good job, watching film. I probably need to figure out some of his keys because he’s done a good job thus far. I need to figure out what he’s doing.”
“I know their coaching staff is new just like we are,” Cornelson said. “Trying to instill a new culture. Both programs are trying to get to another level. It’s a big game for both of us.”