They’ve met every year since 1971 with bragging rights at stake.

Tonight is no different for county rivals Eastern Wayne and Southern Wayne.

The Warriors celebrate their 50th homecoming in program history and look to send their seniors out with a win.

Not to mention, it’s an important Eastern Carolina 3-A/4-A Conference game for Eastern Wayne, which needs a victory to boost its postseason aspirations.

“We have a lot at stake in tomorrow’s game,” Warriors head coach Leander Oates said on the eve of the teams’ 55th meeting.

“We can’t sleep on Southern Wayne. They’ve been in games early against the powerhouses of our conference and offensively they have weapons to put points on the board.

“They may be small in numbers, but they’re a threat.”

Oates said the Warriors (3-5 overall, 1-3 ECC) must avoid costly mistakes that have plagued them on both sides of the ball all season.

They’ll need to ride their workhorse, running back Junious Tyson — a 1,200-yard rusher with 12 touchdowns. Expected to see loaded defensive fronts to contain Tyson, quarterback Desmond Vaughn needs to take some pressure off of his teammate and find heralded receiver Marcus Rouse.

“We just need to keep our offense balanced so we can keep them honest,” Oates said.

Southern Wayne (1-8, 0-5) enters on a five-game skid.

But, there have been some bright spots for the Saints.

The Wright brothers, running back DeAndre and quarterback Demetric, have made a number of big plays. They’ll need to make a few more to keep the Saints in the game and keep the Warriors’ dynamic offense off the field.

“We’re going to try and keep the ball, but at the end of the day, we want to keep a fast-paced game going,” SW head coach Ronnie McClary Jr. said. “If we score quickly, that’s fine because we trust our defense. But if we have to hold the ball, we have athletes smart enough to control the clock.

“Depending on how the game is going, that will determine what kind of pace we play with.”

Three-and-outs are critical for both teams, particularly the Saints.

“We want to end our season on a good note,” McClary Jr. said. “We want to end how we start next year, so hopefully we’ll come out and be prepared to play.”