They are divided by the Interstate 12 exit they share on the eastern end of Livingston Parish.

For one Friday night every year, the communities of Albany and Springfield are also divided by a football field.

The two take their sides once again this week when Springfield High makes the 7-mile bus trip to face Albany in the annual meeting of the small-town Livingston rivals.

Albany enters with a 2-0 mark following back-to-back lopsided wins, while Springfield looks to rebound from a pair of narrow defeats decided in crunch time.

“It’s a big game for both schools and for both communities,” Albany coach Blane Westmoreland said. “The kids go to church together, they do a lot together. We’re only a few minutes apart.”

The rivalry had a unique feel when it pitted players who separated after attending the same junior high.

That’s no longer the case, but the annual Springfield-Albany matchup remains a hot ticket in eastern Livingston Parish this time of year.

No one knows better than Springfield coach Ryan Serpas, a 1997 graduate of Albany who has spent the past eight seasons as the head coach at his father’s alma mater. He sports a 5-2 record against the Hornets including a 28-6 win last year.

“Just the close proximity of the schools and the kids growing up together, that makes it special,” Serpas said. “It definitely has that small-town vibe.”

The more successful of the programs in recent years, Springfield reached the state quarterfinals in Class 2A last season after making the semifinals in 2012.

But the Bulldogs are off to an 0-2 start after losing at Independence in overtime and then suffering a 26-21 setback against Christian Life last week.

“If the ball bounced their way a couple of times,” Westmoreland said, “they’re just as easily a 2-0 ball club.”

Looking for its first win in the series since 2011, Albany enters Friday on a roll after beating Cohen and East Iberville by a combined score of 121-0 to start the season.

Junior playmaker Cheyenne Labruzza scored on a pair of 75-yard runs and had two catches for 52 yards in last week’s win.

Serpas knows the Bulldogs will have their hands full, but he expects his team to be ready.

For this game, they always are.

“All you’ve got to do is say ‘Albany’ and you know you’re going to get their best effort,” Serpas said.

Denham, Live Oak, Walker win big

The three Livingston teams that compete in District 4-5A scored nondistrict blowout wins in Week 2 action.

Denham Springs cruised to a 50-0 victory over Tara after leading 43-0 at halftime, Live Oak blanked KIPP Renaissance 61-0 to give Brett Beard his first win as the Eagles’ coach and Walker improved to 2-0 with a 64-14 rout of Franklin.

Walker enters Friday’s home game against Capitol with a 120-20 scoring edge through two games.

Denham Springs has been equally dominant with last week marking its second straight shutout win, but the Yellow Jackets take a step up in competition when they travel to Covington for a nondistrict 5A matchup with St. Paul’s.

The game should have the feel of a postseason dress rehearsal.

“It’s another benchmark for us,” Denham coach Dru Nettles said. “We get to travel and be on the road together against a quality opponent. We look forward to it. It’s one of those things that will prepare us for our district. We will know where we stand.”

Live Oak, too, hits the road for the first time this week.

The Eagles head to St. Francisville on Friday to meet a West Feliciana team that reached the 3A semifinals last year.

Livingston swimmers make waves

Shane Pendarvis and Tristan Wilkinson led Walker on Saturday during an early-season Capital City Swim League meet, combining for three top-three finishes as the Wildcats finished fourth out of nine in the team standings.

Pendarvis won the 100-yard backstroke in 1 minute, 1.06 seconds and finished second in the 200 individual medley with a time of 2:17.97. Wilkinson placed second in the 100 butterfly with a time of 1:01.40.

The Walker girls finished fifth in the meet.

A week earlier at the CCSL’s Tipoff meets, Denham Springs’ Ross Alexander and Dylan Goodrich had state-qualifying times with top-four finishes in the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke, respectively.

Goodrich won the 100 backstroke in 59.83 and Alexander (23.95) placed fourth in the 50 free.

Also in that meet, the Denham Springs’ girls 200 freestyle relay team of Taylor Champagne, Hannah Pettus, Laurel Junda and Malorie Langlois finished third with a time of 28.34.

Live Oak Middle wins two more

Live Oak Middle School football remained perfect last week as the seventh-grade team beat Hammond 16-12 and the eighth-graders defeated Albany 42-14. Both teams improved to 3-0 on the season.

The eighth grade faces Juban Parc on Thursday night at Denham Springs High School.

Scott Hotard covers sports for The Livingston-Tangipahoa Advocate. He can be contacted at shotard44@gmail.com or livingston@theadvocate.com.