Many moons ago when I was a high school student, there was one school we looked forward to competing against more than any other.
The campus for our biggest rival was located approximately 20 miles from ours and that certainly added to the intensity of the bantering between students and, to some degree, adults.
It didn’t seem to matter if we were playing our rival in football, basketball, baseball or even golf. There was no opponent we wanted to defeat more. The feeling was mutual for our rival when it came to us.
During my senior year of high school, we met our rival in the second game of the football season. The game, as it typically was between our teams, was competitive and went down to the fourth quarter. In the end we won this matchup 13-7, and it was made even sweeter because we did it on our rival’s field.
The 1988 season would turn out to be a successful one, not only for my alma mater but for our rival. We were undefeated until the state championship game in GISA Class A while our rival suffered only one loss (to us) until their state championship at the AA classification.
While we always wanted to give our rival a loss, when it came to competition we also respected them. I doubt many would have admitted it back then but we wanted our rival to win their state championship. The reasoning was simple: if they were the best at the classification one step up from ours then that meant we really had a pretty good football team.
Many football seasons have come and gone since the fall of 1988, and through time the rivalry between our schools has cooled to some degree. There were stretches where we didn’t play in football and while other sports were important, it seemed most of the back-and-forth took place leading up to the matchup on the gridiron.
When you are young, you typically don’t appreciate certain things. The reason is simple. You haven’t lived enough years to have the knowledge to appreciate those things.
One summer during high school (prior to the 1988 season) I worked a summer job with a student from our rival school. We talked a good bit about football and how our schools did seem to hate each other. We actually became pretty good friends and I gained a respect not only for him but for his school.
My new friend played in that 1988 game and it was hard to wish bad on him even though I clearly wanted my school to win. When the game was over I purposely sought him out on the field and congratulated him on a solid performance.
I told him I thought he and his team would do well the rest of the way. It turned out I was right. I also knew we were fortunate to leave town with a win that night. If memory serves, it was a rainy Friday night in middle Georgia and weather conditions of that nature always contribute to the outcome to some degree.
All of this comes to mind because my alma mater is playing our old rival this Friday night. The game will be on that same field as it was in 1988. I imagine many things about that stadium are the same as it was more than three decades ago.
The players are different of course, as are the coaches. There is a new set of parents who will be there to watch their sons play and their daughters cheer. Food will be served from the same concession stand and fans will enter through the same gate.
Work requirements will keep me from being there, but I will anxiously await scoring updates and the final outcome (easier to obtain in 2019 than back in 1988). The rivalry may not be as intense as it once was, but I know players from both teams will do everything they can to be victorious at the game’s end.
I write these words on a fall afternoon with the sky completely blue with not a cloud in sight. “Perfect football weather,” I think to myself as I enjoy the sunlight shining through my window.
It’s also a perfect day to write about another chapter in a rivalry that dates back decades and is still something to get excited about, even if for just us old-timers.