Lewiston running back Danny May runs upfield against Kevin Haskell of Edward Little in Auburn in October 2018. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

One year ago, Lewiston and Edward Little engaged in one of the most exciting fortnights in the long history of their rivalry, playing back-to-back nail-biters at Walton Field at the end of the season.

Edward Little came from behind to beat Lewiston 26-22 in the traditional regular season finale and clinch home field advantage in the Class A North first-round playoff game. Everyone returned to Walton the following week for the first playoff game between the rivals in a decade, which the Red Eddies pulled out once again with some last-minute heroics, 18-13.

The rivals return to Walton Field once again Friday night at 7 p.m. for the 178th Battle of the Bridge, and while there isn’t as much on the line as  the 176th and 177th, it doesn’t hold any less meaning for both teams.

Edward Little holds the Alan Clark Sr. Memorial Trophy and playoff bragging rights, but Lewiston leads the series all-time, 93-72-12.

The game is being played on the Auburn side of the Bernard Lown Peace Bridge again this year as part of the city’s sesquicentennial celebration. Both Lewiston coach Darren Hartley and Edward Little coach Dave Sterling said the game may not have the immediate stakes of last year’s games, but their teams know its significance in honoring the tradition of the rivalry while also building for the future.

“I’ve been watching ESPN’s series on 150 years of college football and they were counting down the top college rivalries,” Sterling said. “This rivalry has been going on a lot longer than a lot of them.”

“It’d be great if we were both 8-0 at this time of year,” Hartley said. “We’re both trying to get there and have a lot of work to do. But it’s a big game. We know that they’re going to play hard and I hope that we play hard. I don’t think anyone needs motivation for this game.”

The visiting Blue Devils (1-7) are in the early stages of rebuilding under first-year coach Hartley. Despite the record, the season has had some bright spots. They haven’t been able to get on the right side of the scoreboard since their Week 2 32-27 home win over Bangor, but they have shown flashes.

The first concern for EL will be Lewiston’s running tandem of Dylon Jackson and Danny May.

“They run the ball extremely well,” Sterling said. “Darren’s done a wonderful job coaching up the young men over there. They had a very good game against Bangor. I thought they played exceptionally well against Sanford (in a 39-18 loss).

Lewiston will be bolstered by the return of quarterback Kameron Caron and defensive standout Dominick Colon from injuries. But talent hasn’t been the Devils’ biggest problem this year, Hartley said — discipline and lack of focus for four quarters have.

“We’ve shown little bits and pieces that we can hang around with people because we have some explosiveness, we’re pretty darn good up front, but … we just lack some focus and it has victimized us every time we’ve needed it most,” Hartley said. “Whether it’s a penalty, whether it’s a blown assignment, it’s escaped us very quickly.”

The Red Eddies (0-8) had their own rebuilding program derailed by a rash of injuries, but like the Blue Devils, they expect to be as close to full health as they’ve been in a while for Friday night.

“We’ve been trying to get a lot of sophomores to play against high-caliber, varsity-level seniors at other schools,” Sterling said. “They’ve really had their mettle forged through the fire of trial and adversity, and they’re really learning about themselves and the game and the people that are around them that all need to develop and stick together.”

Sophomore QB Jack Keefe bore the brunt of some of the injuries this season because they accentuated one of the concerns Sterling had going into the season, a lack of size. But EL could have the advantage at the line of scrimmage, and Sterling is excited to have senior leaders Gunnar Winslow, Tony Fournier and Cooper Watkins together again in the lineup.

Hartley said getting a sense of what the Red Eddies might want to do Friday night while watching film hasn’t been easy with the constantly shuffling lineup, but he’s certain EL won’t hold anything back.

“We’re trying to prepare for everything,” Hartley said. “I expect some of their guys that have been out will be back. I think Dave is going to try to establish the run game off the pass game and vice-versa. They’re physical and they’ve gotten better. They’ve got two or three very talented skill players. I think it’s going to be a very physical, balanced offensive attack.”

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