Sports Editor

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In Coach Phillip Prior’s estimation, his Poinciana Eagles have played two solid games defensively to open the season, despite their 0-2 record.

The Eagles and Mulberry were locked in a scoreless battle into the fourth quarter last week until Arian Smith, who played quarterback, running back and receiver, broke free and scored on a 40-yard run with five minutes left; that score was the deciding factor in the 7-0 game.

“We’ve been competitve two games in a row, and now it’s time to take the next step,” Prior said. “Friday we played great defense, we held (Smith) in check for all but one play.

“On defense, our downfall has been giving up the big play, like that touchdown and a fourth-down against Celebration which helped them to a touchdown. On offense it’s been the lack of that big play.”

The Eagles will have to put it all together Friday if they want their first-ever win in the Battle of the Boulevard rivalry with Liberty at home on Friday. The Chargers will also be looking for their first win; they come off a bye week after opening the season with a 50-32 loss to South Lake that has a bit of a deceiving score. Liberty scored all their points in the first half and led 36-21 late in the second quarter before the Eagles got two touchdowns in the last two minutes of the first half and scored to open the third quarter.

This is the 12th installment of the rivalry game, named for Poinciana Boulevard, on which PHS sits and Liberty backs up to just six miles to the south. Liberty is a perfect 11-0 in the game; Poinciana’s best chance to win it may have come in the very first one in 2007, the Chargers’ first-ever game. Liberty trailed 16-0 but scored three times in the final six minutes to win, 18-16.

“I’ve looked at the scores of the games in the past and told the kids it’s not a rivalry until you win one,” Prior said. “But it’s a big game that our kids are excited about.”