The wait for the 122nd Battle of the Ax has gotten a little shorter.
After the rivalry contest between Sherman and Denison was pushed back a month due to the University Interscholastic League’s changes to the football season because of the coronavirus pandemic, the schools have announced a change to their delayed 2020 schedules — this year’s Battle of the Ax will now be played a day earlier than originally agreed upon with a 7 p.m. kickoff on Thursday, Sept. 24, at Dr. Rene and Eva Gerard Field at Munson Stadium.
The last time the Battle of the Ax was not held on a Friday was Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 24) in 1955. Denison won 27-13 to close out District 3-3A play. The match-up was on a Thursday every year from 1941-51, mostly held on Thanksgiving.
Moving it from the traditional Friday night date was due to the UIL guidelines for high school football Friday night telecasts released last week.
Because the game is now on Thursday, it can be televised live and it is going to be broadcast on KXII in addition to being streamed online. It is the second straight season the match-up will be on TV — last year’s game at Bearcat Stadium was part of Fox Sports Southwest’s season-opening coverage.
"We wanted to do what was best for the kids and have the game be on TV," Denison head coach and athletic director Chad Rogers said. "It won’t be that much different to play on a Thursday since it is the first game. I know both teams are excited no matter when it gets played."
In a normal season, teams are not allowed to have live broadcasts of any kind — either on television or the internet — on Fridays. The UIL waived that rule for the 2020 season because of how schools are dealing with coronavirus regulations handed down from several agencies and the limited capacities which are being placed on stadiums this fall.
As long as both schools involved in a game agree, they can broadcast the event live in whatever form chosen.
The exception to this rule, however, was revealed in the guidelines put forth by the UIL in regards to the season-opening Friday for Class 5A and 6A programs on Sept. 25. The reason for this is that Fox Sports Southwest will be airing games that night and the network has exclusive rights to this particularly Friday when it comes to TV broadcasts.
Sherman and Denison could have kept the game on Friday but would only have been able to show the game online.
In regards to the maximum number of fans that will be allowed to attend the Battle of the Ax, a total has not yet been reached as the districts are working within social distancing guidelines to have as many attend as is possible. There is also the fact that the number may change in either direction between now and the game in a little more than a month.
"The annual Battle of the Ax is always a sell-out game, and ordinarily we would expect this year to be no different. However, we are under orders to allow only 50% capacity in our stadiums due to the COVID-19 pandemic," the Denison ISD said in a press release. "This will severely limit our ability to accommodate everyone who wants to see this very special football game. This is a year for being flexible in all things. Please join us in watching the 122nd Battle of the Ax game from the comfort of your home."
Denison will be going for its eighth straight victory in the series after winning last season, 29-13, to match the Jackets’ longest unbeaten streak against the Bearcats, a run from 1942-48 that included five victories and two ties.
Sherman is trying to end that stretch with its first victory over its rival since 2012.