"We have been wanting to do this for several years," Mercer coach Duane Hammons said. "A lot of people feel like us and Harrodsburg are the biggest rivals in the world, but we are very friendly. We just think it will be something positive for our community to let a lot of people watch both teams play the same night."
The teams will switch opponents in 2006, when the Fort Harrod Bowl moves to Harrodsburg.
"We are going to alternate sites based on where the Mercer-Harrodsburg game is played," Hammons said. "Next season we play Harrodsburg at Harrodsburg, so we have the bowl games. It switches the next year. That way we will each get to host a big game each year.
"We think the fans will really enjoy the bowl. There are so many big bowls the first week that the second week just seemed a better fit. Plus, since Mercer and Harrodsburg play each other the next week, it only seemed natural to have the bowl the second week of the season."
Sponsorship is still being sought for the Fort Harrod Bowl, where both out-of-town teams will be guaranteed $2,000. A $500 scholarship in honor of the most valuable players in the games is also a possibility.
"We really want to host a first-class bowl," Hammons said. "We are trying to pick the best from various bowls and really be a good host. We've even thought about taking the four teams in the bowl and trying to set up a volleyball tournament or cross country meet that morning between the same schools."
There will also be one other major change involving Harrodsburg and Mercer starting next season. The two rivals are moving their game to Saturday to avoid conflicting with the Danville-Boyle County game. Harrodsburg will host Mercer Sept. 3, one night after Danville and Boyle play.
"This way a lot of our fans can watch the Danville-Boyle game and a lot of their fans can hopefully watch the Mercer-Harrodsburg game," Hammons said. "We feel like these are two of the best rivalry games in the state, and it was a shame to play them both on the same night. This way we can accommodate fans of all the teams and showcase area football even more."
A look at other changes area teams are making with their 2005 schedules:
Boyle County: The Rebels will open the season against Eastern in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in the Ray Adams Charger Classic. Boyle opened the 2003 season in the same bowl.
"It's a real nice atmosphere and game for the kids," Boyle coach Chuck Smith said.
The Rebels also have Harrodsburg back on the schedule. The Pioneers bought their way out of the final year of a contract with Boyle after losing 62-8 to the Rebels in 2001, and the teams have not played since.
"Harrodsburg approached us last year and said if we had anything open, they would be interested in playing us again," Smith said. "Going to Highlands this year cost our Quarterback Club $3,000 for us to make the trip. I couldn't see us paying to do that again. Maybe if we could play them at a neutral site halfway between the two schools, that would have worked. But with Highlands off, we had a spot for Harrodsburg."
Boyle also dropped Lincoln, a Class AAA district rival this year. Smith said he never considered playing Lincoln again because he didn't want to compete against Lincoln coach Larry French, the coach who gave him his first job at Mercer County.
"As long as Larry is their head coach, we won't play because I don't like playing friends," Smith said.
Casey County: The Rebels have added Mercer to their schedule, but the best news for Casey is that it already knows it will be in the playoffs.
Casey, Garrard, Corbin and Wayne County will remain in their district after Russell County exits for Class AAA.
The Rebels also picked up games with Taylor County, Marion County, Grant County, Bethlehem and Evangel Christian.
Danville: Danville coach Sam Harp also opted not to play Lincoln and Highlands again. Instead, he accepted a chance to play Pulaski Southwestern in 2005 and Pulaski County in 2006 in the bowl in Somerset, where his team is guaranteed $3,500 each year.