TROY — Todd Heugh last suited up as a Troy Athens soccer player 22 years ago.
Undoubtedly, some of his high school memories have faded over time.
The ones that haven’t, though, have plenty to do with the school’s most ardent rival.
“Those battles against Troy (High) on the soccer field are some of the things I remember the most,” Heugh said with a laugh. “People from the city come out; they wear red or black, sit on one side of the field or the other and have at it.”
Now in his second year as the coach at Athens, Heugh has the chance to add to his memory bank as the city rivals get set to square off in their annual regular-season battle, set for 7 p.m. Sept. 25 at Troy.
“It’s something we enjoy,” Troy coach Brian Zawislak said. “Todd and I are pretty good friends, and even that day we’re talking and friendly. Once that game starts, though, the competitors in us take over. It’s a game he wants to win just as badly as I do. It’s always fun.”
Making this year’s game even more intense is just how strong both teams have been so far.
At press time, Athens was 7-2-0 overall and 3-0-0 in the Oakland Activities Association Red Division. Troy was 9-1-2 overall and 2-1-0 in the Red.
Both are riding the momentum of last year’s finish: Athens reached the Division 1 regional final, and Troy was one win away from a chance to play for a state title.
“Anytime these teams play, it’s a big deal. But with how last year went for both of us, it makes this game that much better,” Heugh said.
The Athens coach said he was hoping for an all-Troy state final in 2011, which wasn’t far from happening.
It won’t be possible this year, as both squads are in the same district.
“There’s a good chance we’ll see them again, so putting forth a good effort in this one could go a long way,” Heugh said.
Effort hasn’t been the problem in recent years for Athens, but winning has.
The Colts edged Athens 1-0 in last year’s meeting and took the OAA Red title with a 6-1-0 record. The Red Hawks were second at 5-1-1.
Troy also won the two previous meetings between the teams.
“We’ve had their number the past three years, but I don’t think that matters all that much right now,” Zawislak said. “Every team and every year is different. So, we’ve won a few in a row, but that doesn’t change how we approach this game at all.”
As for the approach itself, both coaches hammered home the need to avoid mistakes as much as possible.
“If we give them time and space with the ball, we’ll be in trouble,” Zawislak said. “We