As Plant City and Durant prepare to square off in another chapter of the battle for the James L. Redman Cup this Friday, it got me thinking about some of my favorite football rivalries.
We all know of Florida-Georgia, Michigan-Notre Dame and the rivalry of the Giants and Cowboys in the NFL, but here is a list, in no particular order, of five rivalries that stick with me. Although possibly not as well known as some of the aforementioned series, these games still bring plenty of emotion each year and have created some memorable moments.
1. Jefferson-Jackson County: First I’d like to start with a high school rivalry few of our readers know about, but one I was fortunate enough to be a part of as a prep reporter in northeast Georgia.
The football stadiums at Jefferson High and Jackson County Comprehensive High School are separated by just over a mile. But, the two schools — which share the same city (Jefferson) and county (Jackson County) — hadn’t faced each other in 25 years.
Now, there were rumors flying (mostly from Jackson County fans) that Jefferson, a city school in its own school district and a perennial powerhouse in a lower classification, was afraid to play Jackson County, a county school that has a tradition of losing.
Because they were in separate regions and classifications, they weren’t required to play — until 2010, when a GHSA reclassification put them in the same region.
The games have brought the small town together and has created a great community rivalry. Just like Durant and Plant City, the games features players who grew up playing youth football together and now attend church together.
Although Jefferson has had the upper hand in the rivalry, including winning 28-6 in their state championship season last fall and 49-0 this year, the game is still a great rivalry between two schools that are within walking distance of one another.
2. Georgia-Georgia Tech: Probably the biggest college football connection I have with people in Florida is the rivalry between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Florida Gators. Well, in Georgia, there is another rivalry that gets pretty heated.
Growing up in Atlanta, I was a minority, because I cheered for Georgia Tech instead of UGA.
It made sense to me. I’m from Atlanta, not Athens, and I had just as many family members with degrees from Tech as degrees from UGA.
The nickname “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate,” pretty much sums up the GT-UGA rivalry.
UGA boasts having a better overall program and a stronger fan base, while GT jokes that although that may be true, Tech graduates will be the bosses of UGA grads one day.
3. Navy-Army: Sure, it’s usually referred to as “Army-Navy,” but we all know which one should go first.
This one is special to me, because it brought my dad and I together each year to watch the game. Although he didn’t attend the academy in Annapolis, he served in the U.S. Navy during Vietnam, so there is no secret which team he (and by default, I) rooted for in the battle for the Thompson Cup.
As my love for college football grew, I became a bigger fan of Navy, after making a coaching connection between them and my alma mater (Georgia Southern). Our former head coach, Paul Johnson, had a successful stint at Navy before becoming the head coach at Georgia Tech. Johnson’s famous triple option wishbone offense still can be seen at Georgia Southern and Navy.
While I’m eight hours away from my father now, we will still call each other on Army-Navy weekend to give our pre-game and post-game reports.
Navy and Army will face off for the 114th time Dec. 14.
As always, Go Navy, beat Army!
4. Harvard-Yale: This is one of my favorite rivalries and proves that rivalries aren’t just for “big schools.”
In fact, the annual game between Harvard and Yale is the second oldest rivalry in college football (behind Yale-Princeton), dating back to 1875. Because of this, the rivalry has appropriately been nicknamed “The Game.”
Although it is never a top-billed game on ESPN, the game is usually televised, and I always try to watch it. Ivy League schools don’t give athletic scholarships, and very few of the players ever make it to the NFL, so not only are they some of the smartest student athletes in the country, but also they are playing for their love and passion for the game.
Harvard has owned the series in recent years, but it’s still a fun game to watch.
5. Georgia Southern-Appalachian State and GSU-Furman: I couldn’t end this list without some shameless promotion of my alma mater. Although only hardcore college football fans know of Georgia Southern outside of 100 miles of Statesboro, the school has a great football tradition and some great rivalries that fuel them.
The GSU-Furman rivalry truly fits the bill of how rivalries are born. The Eagles first faced Furman in 1985 in the Division I-AA national title game, which GSU won 44-42. It was Southern’s first of six national championships.
Furman defeated GSU three years later for the school’s only title, while GSU went on to win titles in 1999 and 2000.
The rivalry heightened when GSU joined the Southern Conference with Furman in 1993, and the two schools have had some epic games since. The demographics of each school — GSU is a 20,000 student public university in the deep south, while Furman is a private liberal arts college in South Carolina with less than 3,000 students — makes for an interesting fan-base dynamic.
GSU’s rivalry with Appalachian State is more recent but arguably much more competitive. The two schools have similar academic and student enrollment profiles.
In 1987, the Eagles and Mountaineers met in the I-AA playoffs, beginning the rivalry in the modern era. App. State owns a 12-10 advantage in the series in the modern era.
While App. State has the upper hand in the series, GSU has some notable wins, including winning 38-35 in 2007, in Boone, N.C., the same year the Mountaineers defeated Michigan and won the FCS national championship. That win snapped the Mountaineers’ 30-game home winning streak, the longest in the nation at the time at any level.
The two schools will move up to FBS football next year, playing in the Sun Belt Conference.