Rivalry Week is a strange phenomenon in Liga HEB. If we're being honest, it's more of a playful nickname than a true sentiment. This is the only week in which every club plays the other side from their school. That makes it a tactically important fluctuation in the schedule; one that has helped to decide Champions Cup contenders in the past. But you wouldn't know it from the way the players interact. They laugh. They joke around. Fists are bumped, playful banter is exchanged.

Rivalry Week is beautiful.

Passion makes soccer what it is. The Beautiful Game would be just another pass-time if not for the way it gets into your blood. But soccer is also known as a Gentlemen's Game. There's an unwritten code of ethics underneath the pitch. One that values every player, and emphasizes respect even in the most fierce battles. Those two things — passion and chivalry — combine during Rivalry Week, when players who practice together after school can line up and test each other under game conditions. The results are almost always explosive.

Raiders United Hang On to Edge Hurst City

(Photo by Steven A Jones, 6 Stones)

We knew this was the game to watch almost as soon as it was scheduled, and the Raider Rumble lived up to the hype. 30 minutes in, the match was still knotted up at one. Play bounced back and forth across the field from start to finish. If anything, underdog Hurst City looked to be pressuring more effectively during the course of the match. They just never found a finishing touch in the final third of the field.

Raiders pulled ahead early, gathering a poor clearance from City's back line and burying a clinical chance in the bottom corner of the goal. The play began with a strong run down the left side of the field, during which HCFC's right back tackled the ball but failed to dislodge it. The defender fell down on the play, leaving Raiders with a clear path to a stranded ‘keeper. City equalized moments later, when their signature, high-pressure style earned them a Penalty Kick that found its way into the corner of the goal at the near post.

In the end, a lack of strong defense from City and a tenacious Raiders counterattack settled the match. It looked for a while like we would see the first draw of the season, but the Reds had other ideas. The usual suspects combined to move the ball just efficiently enough to pull ahead and hang on. While Hurst City generated plenty of chances in the second half, none of them led to a truly dangerous strike as their opponents tightened up the back line. That said, the result would be very much up in the air if we should get a rematch on April 5.

Stallions FC Climb Into Second Place on Goal Difference

(Photo by Steven A Jones, 6 Stones)

Of all the Rivalry Week fixtures, The Rodeo was the least uncertain this year. Real Euless have been at the bottom of the table since the league opened, surrendering half a dozen goals every match. Stallions FC, on the other hand, look to have the best chance in Liga HEB of crushing Hurst's dream of an all-red final. The Euless sides opened against each other back in January, and the result was much the same then as it was this go around: an 8-nil win for Stallions, followed by an 8-2 margin.

While the Horsemen took advantage of the day to seize control of second place, Real were content to celebrate their first tally of the season. The last time Euless White found the back of the net was in a win against Stallions at the end of the 2016 campaign, and the celebration that followed their first goal of 2017 was tantamount to a championship run. With a young and developing club like this one, finding moments of joy is essential. It was good to see the squad find something to celebrate. It was better to see the players in black laugh along with them.

For Stallions, the joy runs a bit deeper. Thanks to Hurst City's loss and a generous Real defense, the Horsemen find themselves in second place. They've got the same record as City, but a better Goal Differential, and it looks like the clubs will be fighting for that coveted second spot right up until their showdown in Week 8. Dreams of lifting the cup are very much justified in Euless.

Atlético Central Stays Alive with Win Over Spartans

(Photo by Steven A Jones, 6 Stones)

At 2-2-0, Atlético sits three points out of a tie for second place. It's not unreasonable to think that they could pull back into contention for the Champions' Cup, especially with a favorable matchup against Euless and a series of fixtures against Hurst at the back end of the season. If they want to make a run at the Cup and avenge last year's championship loss, they have to start picking up points anywhere they can. As fate would have it, The Agoge was their first opportunity.

Just like the balance of power at Hurst, Atlético boasts a better record and more individual skills than their rivals, but Spartans FC evened the equation with steady, team-first play. Possession favored the boys in blue for most of the match, but the younger squad didn't have a prayer once Atlético wrestled the ball away from them and found a rhythm. ACFC has a handful of exceptionally skilled attackers who just about left scorch marks on the pitch as they carved down the left side, obliterating Spartan defenders as they went.

The third and final goal of the match was perhaps its most emblematic, as Atlético's left winger juked away from his man, cut back, and centered the ball perfectly to an oncoming striker. Time seemed to freeze as the attacker settled the ball, squared up, and drilled it into the near post before a Spartan center back could so much as offer a challenge. This match could be the turning point for an Atlético team that desperately needs one.

Uniforms and equipment for Liga HEB are furnished by sponsorships from Ideal Impact Inc, Elite Fitness HQ, BB&T, The Soccer Corner, 89.7 Way FM, and Parra Car Care. For more on the league, drop by the Schedule & Standings page or check out the weekly Power Rankings published on the news hub.

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