Grand Junction, Fruita Monument prep for Friday night's opening SWL game

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) One of the most heated rivalries here on the western slope sits between the Grand Junction Tigers and Fruita Monument Wildcats.

Though the competition carries into each sport through the school year, none is thicker than the one that occurs each September on the football field, and this time around it opens up play in the Southwestern League.

["What are we] expecting to see? Just a good football game, two good teams ready to go after it," said Fruita Monument head coach Sean Mulvey.

"One of the first goals we set every year is we want to win a Southwestern League title," said Grand Junction head coach Robbie Owens.

Hundreds of fans pack the stands of Stocker Stadium for a chance to be a part of the excitement that favors one side after the clock strikes zero.

"The Junction game is always one of the most fun games of the year," said FMHS quarterback Jake Lynch, "so to be able to start conference play with that, it's big for us."

Last season the Wildcats came out on top for the first time since 2008, and it was something that has sat with the tigers ever since.

"I think it's a motivating factor for us and obviously we're going to use that as coaches, and we expect our guys to pick up their intensity this week," said Owens.

"We definitely want to go out there and change the outcome of how it was last year," said GJHS quarterback Tyler Heinsma, "but we've been against those guys since we were little kids, so it's fun to be able to go out there and play against them."

This year Grand Junction started as a force to reckon with, taking down team after team on the Front Range while averaging over 50 points and pushing into the top ten. Since their return home, that average dropped by 20 points. Now they're looking to get back on track starting Friday night, but Fruita won't go down without a fight.

"We need to have all our guys on defense do their job," said Mulvey. "We need to come out and take care of the ball on offense and be efficient and implement our game plan."

The key for the blue and white will be their defense. MaxPreps shows they've averaged 76 tackles per game while tacking on 16 sacks and 5 interceptions - numbers higher than most of the top 10 teams in the state.

"It's a big, big time for us," said Lynch. "It's been a long time since we've won conference, so we're looking forward to getting into it and start putting in work."

"I don't think there's anything else like it, being able to go out there and play against your home town rivals and everyone being out there to watch you," said Heinsma.

Both sides are coming ready to bring their all, and now that it's league play, it's a clean slate, and it's anyone's game.

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