families have been divided, friends have been lost, pranks have gone awry, and the memories last a lifetime. Need we say more? What follows is a look into the most notable and most spirited past and present high school football rivalries.
South Pittsburg vs. Marion County 1924-Present
South Pittsburg leads 47-38-4
The South Pittsburg vs. Marion County rivalry is one of the oldest in the state of Tennessee, dating back to the era prior to the Great Depression. The storied success of each of these programs makes it arguably the most heated in the area. The two schools have each brought home four state championships since 1990 and have produced NFL-caliber players of the likes of Eric Westmoreland (Marion Co.), Eddie Brown (Marion Co.), and Eddie Moore (South Pittsburg). The short distance – an easy 15-minute drive across I-24 – between the schools just adds fuel to the fire.
In 1969, the rivalry was taken to new levels when South Pittsburg locked down a playoff berth with a 28-22 victory over Marion Co. in a winner-takes-all grudge match late in the season. South Pittsburg used that berth to take home their first ever state championship title. Over four decades later, the rivalry burns on. For instance, the Marion County faithful point out that the 2010 Pirates, after leading 42-0 at halftime, opted for two-point conversions for the duration of the second half instead of tacking on an extra point with the common PAT. The game later ended 64-0 in favor of South Pittsburg.
Marion County fans have been down on their luck in this rivalry for eight consecutive years and will look to get things going in the right direction this season.
Baylor vs. McCallie 1905-Present
Baylor leads 42-35-3
In 1905, Baylor and McCallie football teams met for the first time. Baylor did not have a football program in the first two years of the series, but the school competed with an organized club team, dropping each of the first two games to the McCallie squad. The Baylor loyals typically point to 1907 as the year of the rivalry’s founding when the school had an administration-supported team for the first time. Regardless, the cross-river rivalry had begun and would quickly turn into one of the most deeply-rooted and highly-watched high school football clashes in the Chattanooga area.
By 1940, the series had become exceptionally competitive and was discontinued. Same say that at the time there were murmurs that too much significance was being placed on the outcome of the game. Other perspectives show that things had become one-sided – Baylor had won four straight and seven of the last ten meetings – and the two programs opted to drop the game off the schedule as a result.
In 1971, the rivalry resumed in front of a crowd of 4,500 on a highly-anticipated fall night. The renewal of the series helped further invigorate high school football in the Chattanooga area. The tradition that was tied to the game picked back up in stride, almost as if there hadn’t truly been a generational gap in Baylor vs. McCallie football. In the return to action, Baylor won the game 9-7, led by a David Dick touchdown and a Mike Shuford 27-yard field goal.
Including post-season games, McCallie leads the series 23-22 since it was restored. Baylor has won six straight and will have an opportunity to knot up the “post-restoration” series score in this year’s early October meeting.
Bradley Central vs. McMinn County 1916-Present
McMinn County leads 51-49-3
Records indicate Bradley Central and McMinn County played for the first time in 1916, making it one of the most historic in the state of Tennessee. The grudge match between these Cleveland and Athens-based teams has been alive for nearly a century and shows no signs of slowing.
Since 2000, McMinn County has won 12 of the 14 regular season matchups, and in 2012, eliminated Bradley Central from state championship contention with a 42-22 win in the first round of the Class 6A TSSAA playoffs.
1961 was one of the most memorable years for both sides. Bradley Central fans remember a prolific offense led by the legendary quarterback Steve Sloan and a 9-1 state-championship-winning season. McMinn County fans remember their upset victory that gave Bradley Central their only blemish in what otherwise would have been a perfect season.
That season, the 1961 Bradley Central team, commonly referred to as the “Golden Bears,” travelled to Athens for the game. At the time, the team was unbeaten, ranked number one in the state, and had knocked off three of the state’s top ten teams over the course of their regular season. Needless to say, the meeting was expected to be a flop of a football game, over early and ending quickly. In front of 5,000 fans, McMinn County, led by an inspiring performance from running back/linebacker Mike Reynolds, pulled off one of the greatest upsets the area has ever seen with a convincing 20-6 win.
Chattanooga Valley vs. Gordon Lee 1949-1988
Series tied 19-19
When Rossville and Chattanooga Valley merged to form Ridgeland High School in 1989, a fiercely contested football rivalry came to an end.
In the final meeting between the two schools, just seven miles apart in Walker County, the Chattanooga Valley Eagles won 6-0 over the Trojans in Chickamauga on September 16, 1988. The Chattanooga Valley win gave both teams 19 victories in the series as it came to a close.
Some of the most often remembered and cherished pieces of this tradition are the rivalry-induced pranks that tended to make an appearance each fall.
Chattanooga Valley graduate Michael “Chig” Martin recalls the Wednesday night before the Friday game of his senior year (1980). That evening, some of the Eagles snuck into Chickamauga to put a damper on Gordon Lee’s pep rally.
“They had a bonfire all set up to burn the next night as a part of their pep rally for our game. We snuck in and lit it the night before they were going to burn it,” said Martin as he laughed. “The Chickamauga fire department had to come out and spray it down so the wood was too wet to burn.”
Childhood competition, close proximity, and bragging rights were the culprits in creating tension between the two programs. Early in their childhoods, Gordon Lee and Chattanooga Valley players often attended the same school but then parted ways to attend middle and high schools based on their zoning. The Eagles and Trojans fed off of the fact that grade school companions were often on the other side of the ball.
Rossville vs. Dalton 1943-1987
Dalton led 20-18-1
One of the most prolific North Georgia rivalries was between football powerhouses Dalton and Rossville. The crowds were huge and the media coverage was always among the best.
Given the overall series record, not many realize that through 1975 Rossville led 17-9-1. But as the mill industry and economy fell off in the late 1970s, Coach Bill Chappell’s Dalton Catamounts took over and won 11 of the final 12 meetings.
Dalton All-State quarterback Kenny Sharp (All-State 1978) said the Rossville-Dalton rivalry was the Catamounts’ biggest back then. Sharp was one of the most exciting players ever to wear a Dalton uniform. His description of the 1978 Rossville vs. Dalton game cleary shows how unpredictable the series truly was.
“My senior year we came into the game against Rossville 4-0 and they were 1-3,” Sharp said. “The first series I took it 76 yards for a touchdown and that was about it for us. We had more total yards than Rossville, but they shut us out after that touchdown and won 17-7. The two punters really put on a show that night.” At the time, Dalton’s punter was Jim Arnold who went on to a successful NFL career.
Norman Haley, a starter for the Rossville Bulldogs in 1969 and 1970, remembers the physical toughness of the Catamounts. “Dalton was the toughest team in the area back then,” he said. “We joked that they had grown men in their 30’s playing on the field. I ALWAYS wanted to beat Dalton.”
Dalton rattled off 9 consecutive wins from 1979-1987. In 1988, the rivalry ended when Rossville High School became a part of Ridgeland High School.
Boyd-Buchanan vs. South Pittsburg 1991-Present
South Pittsburg leads 14-8
Established in 1991, the Boyd-Buchanan School and South Pittsburg rivalry is young in the grand scheme of great rivalries in this area, but no less competitive. Over the last two decades, both schools have established themselves as two of the area’s best, leading to a quickly-established tension between the two programs.
The rivalry took to true form in 1999 when the two teams, both unbeaten at the time, met mid-season. South Pittsburg rallied late to win at Boyd-Buchanan 17-14, despite a charging performance by Boyd-Buchanan’s Jon-David Blair, who rushed for over 150 yards on the evening. The loss was one of Boyd-Buchanan’s two losses that season – the other again came at the hands of the Pirates, who were on their way to their second state championship title in five years, in the state quarters. In 2000, the Bucs would get their revenge, scoring 29 unanswered second-half points to win 29-12.
Since the 1999 season, both programs have been among the most successful in the area with several deep playoff runs and, together, have brought home three state championship trophies to the area.
Red Bank vs. Soddy-Daisy 1940s-Present
Red Bank leads 20-9 (1985-Present)
In 1940, Red Bank and Soddy-Daisy football teams met for the first time ever and the Red Bank Lions earned their first rivalry win over the Trojans. Despite the matchup’s very early beginnings, the rivalry became ever-present in the mid-80s when Soddy-Daisy High School moved to its current location on Sequoyah Access Road and has picked up steam ever since.
Of late, it has been the coaches that have propelled this annual contest forward. Most notoriously, in the mid-1990s, then head coach Tom Weather’s led his Red Bank team into Soddy-Daisy. At the conclusion of a close game, Weathers, who was in the midst of antagonistic, opposing fans, was confronted by a Soddy-Daisy police officer and walked to the officer’s car, creating a media frenzy.
More recently, there has been a trading of coaches. The legendary coach Weathers departed Red Bank and ultimately became the head coach at Soddy-Daisy in 2004. Prior to becoming the head coach for Heritage this year, E.K. Slaughter moved from coordinator at Red Bank to head coach at Soddy-Daisy. In his first season, Slaughter took his Soddy-Daisy team to Tom Weathers Field and got the win over his former team. The shuffle-up has certainly helped keep the intensity more than alive.
With the 2014 season looming, current coaches Chad Grabowski (Red Bank) and Justin Barnes (Soddy-Daisy) will look to have their teams ready for their next meeting at the end of August.
Ringgold vs. Lakeview Fort-Oglethorpe 1951-Present
Ringgold leads 36-30-1
The Ringgold war chant in Catoosa County has always been, “I would rather be dead than red,” in reference to the Tigers’ feelings about the Lakeview Fort-Oglethorpe Warriors.
Since 1986, the game has been called the “Catoosa County Cup.” The winners carry home a colossal trophy that signifies county bragging rights. The close proximity creates a unique level of intensity in the schools’ matchup. Jerry Walker, a former Lakeview player (‘61-‘64) remembers, “Back then, we were the only two schools in Catoosa County, and that alone made it a big rivalry.”
Former Ringgold back Billy Goldsmith points to the familiarity of opposing players with one another that added to the atmosphere, “When you’re playing in that particular game, odds are you’re playing against friends that you really don’t want to lose to. Lose that one, and you’ll have to hear about it for the rest of the year. Most of all, though, I remember the game’s intensity and the big crowds that always were there.”
Ringgold has a 36-30-1 record against its arch rival. In fact, LFO has not had a win over the Tigers since John Allen’s Warriors defeated Ringgold 42-0 on the way to an 11-1 season in 2004.
Bradley Central vs. Cleveland 1965-Present
Cleveland leads 26-13-0
A short three miles away from each other, these two programs have been gritting it out in Cleveland since the 1960s. Even though Cleveland High School has largely controlled the series, it is still one of the most hyped games in the area each season. When the Bears and the Raiders hit the gridiron, the bout has been known to attract a significant gathering, sometimes reaching up to 10,000 when the crowd space is available.
In the early 1990s, the impact of the game on the area had become so great that the series was pushed into a “cooling off” period. Specifically, after the 1992 season, the series was discontinued after seemingly boiling over and wasn’t resumed for nearly a decade. The Bears and the Raiders didn’t play again until the 2001 season.
On September 22nd, 2001, the rivalry resumed in what was a highly anticipated matchup. By early summer that year, players from both sides were well aware of the rivals being scheduled to meet again for the first time in nearly a decade. Cleveland came out firing and put up a huge offensive effort that included eight touchdowns. The Raiders pulled out a 61-34 win.
Since then Cleveland leads the series 9-3 and currently holds the bragging rights after blocking a late Bradley Central PAT to squeak out a 21-20 win at home last season.
Gordon Lee vs. Trion 1933-Present
Trion leads 57-21-1
There’s no doubting how big the Gordon Lee Trojans and Trion Bulldogs football rivalry is.
In fact, Gordon Lee versus Trion is the oldest continuous football rivalry in the state of Georgia (1946-2014). The rivalry actually started on October 13, 1933 with the Trojans taking a 41-6 victory, but the teams didn’t play in 1943 and 1945 as a result of World War II. The continuous streak began on November 1, 1946 and nearly seven decades later we’ll see it continue this August.
The Bulldogs have dominated the rivalry with a 57-21-1 advantage over the years, however, Gordon Lee has rallied in the past 10 games to enjoy a 6-3-1 record over its rival.
Longtime Gordon Lee supporter Trey Deck said, “When those of us from Chickamauga travel to Trion for an away game and we see the look in those people’s eyes, we know they’ve got nothing but disdain for Gordon Lee.”
It’s the game both schools mark on the calendar each season. Brian Owens, an All-State linebacker for Gordon Lee in 1989 notes, “Even on the first day of two-a-day practices in August, we were talking about Trion. They were always on our minds from day one of each season.”
Chattanooga City vs. Central 1907-1998
The City High vs. Central High series is known as one of the greatest in the area as well as the most historic. An animated series was destiny from the get-go, largely due to the location of the two schools at the inception of the contest: Central at the foot of Missionary Ridge and City on 8th street.
In 1907, Central put its first team on the field. Meanwhile, City had fielded teams dating back to 1903 and by 1906 were East Tennessee Champions. In the first meeting, City antagonistically embarrassed Central 63-0. The beating prompted a Central coaching hire and a leader was found in James B. Rike, who coached the 1908 team to a stunning 6-0 upset win over City. Rike would continue to coach at the school until 1919.
Central jumped out to a comfortable lead in the series by the 1940s, and the balance of power shifted further when the Pounders outscored City 290-45 in a six-game span from 1945 to 1950. In 1951, the rivalry was discontinued.
Competition would be renewed briefly in the 1961 Powerbowl, a game that Central won 21-8, when the teams agreed to play for the first time in a decade. Shortly thereafter, the Hamilton Interscholastic League would bring the two together for their final five meetings prior to Central’s location change in 1969. They played each season from 1964-1968, and each of the games were won by Central.
In 1969, Central moved to Highway 58. The two teams met eight times in the 1970s before taking another break in the late 1970s and early 1980s. There would be six more interspersed games played until the rivalry ended in 1999 with the formation of Chattanooga High School – Center for Creative Arts.
Most alums from both sides agree that the competition was at its finest until the early 1950s when it was called off for the first time. However, from 1969 forward, City ended on a winning note, winning ten of the final fourteen games.