Chiefs, Devils should play

Published 8:47am Wednesday, October 2, 2013

“Do you pull for Auburn, or Alabama?”

That was one of the first questions I was asked after I moved from Oregon to Alabama in the fourth grade. I didn’t have a favorite side in the Iron Bowl at that time and, frankly, I hadn’t watched much college football in the Beaver State.

When I told that particular classmate that I didn’t understand the question, I received a blank stare in return.

It was unfathomable to my chum that there were still people in the area that didn’t choose sides like that. That there were folks who didn’t watch football all that often and didn’t care about the outcome of the local or state-wide rivalry games.

This, of course, just illustrates the importance tied to rivalry games in our local culture. It doesn’t matter whether it’s pee-wee, middle school, high school, college or pro ball; fans love to hate rivals and pack stadiums to see their team take on a rival.

The fandom grabbed me as well. Not only did I eventually pick an Iron Bowl favorite (Roll Tide!), but I also found that my heart began to race before a certain point in our high school schedule every season.

I graduated from Baldwin County High School 10 years ago and I still get upset when I see a win for the Daphne Trojans. I know it’s hard to believe now, but that was a competitive series when I went to school down the road. The winner of that game — which was usually near the end of the season — would more than likely take the region crown, but times have changed.

Daphne was, by far, our biggest rival then and I think Escambia County High School and Northview could build a similar rivalry if the two teams played on a regular basis.

For one, Northview is the closest high school to ECHS. Despite the fact they are in different states, the two schools are separated by only nine miles. If you’re a Blue Devils fan, that’s a much closer drive than T.R. Miller, ECHS’s Brewton rival.

Also, despite the Blue Devils’ touting a 4A classification in Alabama and the Chiefs only a 1A classification in Florida, the two schools are similar in size. ECHS’s other big rival, Baldwin County, is in Class 6A.

The convenience alone could produce a big gate for any future games.

The players would benefit also, as many would be able to take the field against players they grew up with in pee-wee football and other youth sports.

Plus, the game lends itself well to awesome name possibilities, like (and I’ll admit this is a work in progress) the “State Line Shootout.”

Northview coach Sid Wheatley and Escambia County coach Lev Holly agree that the game would be a good idea.

“I wouldn’t be opposed to it,” Wheatley said Monday morning. “I think it would be competitive.”

According to the Alabama High School Football Historical Society website, games between the two teams have been competitive, with Northview having a slight 4-3 advantage over the Blue Devils. The teams played from 1998 to 2004 before the series ended, according to the site. In its four wins Northview scored 205 points, while ECHS scored 162 points in its three wins.

Holly agreed, saying he’d “love to play (the Chiefs).”

“It would be a great game for the community,” Holly said. “I would love the opportunity to play them. It would be a great game for both programs.”

However, both coaches acknowledged a problem in dealing with scheduling teams from another state and scheduling another out-of-region rival.

If a game like that were to happen, Holly said, it would have to take place in week five because ECHS has rivals T.R. Miller and Baldwin County scheduled during the other open weeks of the season.

We just finished with week five of the season this year. ECHS lost in a shootout to Faith Academy, which is a school in Alabama’s Class 5A.

Wheatley said the scheduling problems associated with finding an open date in common are compounded by contracts the teams sign years in advance. For instance, Northview is in the first year of a schedule contract, while ECHS is in the second year of its contract.

I really hope they can work the scheduling out in the future, because I think a game like that would be beneficial to everybody who likes high school football.

 

Dale Liesch is a reporter for The Atmore Advance. You can email him at dale.liesch@atmoreadvance.com.

 

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