BENNINGTON -- The Southern Vermont Storm travel to Pittsfield, Mass., this weekend to face off against the rival Northern Berkshire Kings, each looking for position in the 16-team A division of the New England Football League.
But for one member of the Storm, the matchup is much more personal.
Running back Mike Woodson has played with Southern Vermont the past two seasons, but before coming to Bennington he was with the Kings. And according to Woodson, the split was not a good one.
"I’m thrilled to play them, honestly, I never had to play someone I’ve played for before," Woodson said. "I’m looking forward to it. There’s some bad blood and some talking going back and forth. Hopefully we have a big game, blow them out."
Coach Tighe Stratton said he expects Woodson to have a good game against the 1-2 Kings.
"He is excited to be playing these guys, he’s downplaying it a little bit," said Stratton, whose team is 1-1. "It’s time to show them they shouldn’t have lost him. He’s a great player and we’re happy to have him."
The Storm last played two weeks ago, routing the Monadnock Marauders 37-7 on the road in Keene, N.H. The Kings, after being shut out in two straight games, picked up their first win against the Marauders.
"We definitely don’t want to underestimate them," Stratton said. "They have low numbers, but they got a big win against the Marauders. Their [quarterback] is a good athlete. On defense, they blitz a lot and I think we can take advantage of that."
After two bye weeks, the Storm are getting healthy. Woodson was banged up in the team’s first game against the Central Mass Sabercats and leading wide receiver Marcus Anderson will see his first game action of the year.
"The [bye] is a good thing, we got some guys healthy, we were missing some guys," Woodson said. "It will be to our benefit."
If the closeness of the rivalry doesn’t motivate the team, some classic Internet trash-talk seems to have done the job.
On the NEFL web site and forum, a poster ranked the 16 teams in the division and placed the Storm down in the last place spot because Southern Vermont has had back-to-back bye weeks.
"I cant believe they did that," Woodson said. "It’s good bulletin board material."
Stratton said the rankings aren’t official, but it has fired up the players. More than 30 players were at practice on Thursday at the Bennington Rec Center.
"I have no idea who it is but it’s working," Stratton said.