Fueled by high emotion, the Henninger football team got the best of city rival Corcoran in the first half of Friday night's showdown.
Eventually, though, the host Cougars took charge in every phase of the game, dominating the last two periods and recording a 33-12 victory over the Black Knights in front of one of the season's largest and loudest crowds.
Henninger beat Corcoran at Sunnycrest Field a season ago amid a run to the Section III Class AA title, and now the Cougars hope a home win in this rivalry has the same long-term effect as it improved to 2-1 on the season.
All of Henninger's players had gone through a long week of grief and healing after the Sept. 12 death of the school's assistant principal, Joe Mazella, who coached Henninger's basketball team for 15 years before stepping down in 2002.
And when the two teams took the field Friday, Corcoran held a moment of "celebration" for Mazella's life and work before it was time to kick off.
Aside from the emotional concerns, both teams needed to win this Class AA-2 division opener, especially since both had lost at home the previous week - Corcoran to Rome Free Academy, Henninger to CBA.
The Black Knights, fired up at the start, got on the board in the first quarter when quarterback Shawn Bryant threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Shaqueal Rowser.
Corcoran used Shakem Buckmon's one-yard TD run and a Riley Stroman extra point to pull in front 7-6 early in the second quarter, but Henninger answered with anoter scoring drive as Bryant hit Richard Neal for a six-yard TD pass.
Trailing 12-7 at the break, Corcoran turned to its ground game, which Henninger simply could not stop.
Tyquan Mahon consantly broke big runs for the Cougars, as he gained 199 yards on just 14 carries. Some of those yards led to Tyshawn Golden's five-yard TD run early in the third quarter, which gave Corcoran the lead for good.