By Matt Mauney | Associate Editor
Rivalries are special.
No matter the sport or the level of competition, rivalries bring out the passion and excitement that make sports great.
When I took this job and began researching our Plant City schools, the first result I came to was a photo gallery of last year’s football game between Durant and Plant City.
As I clicked through the photos, I saw the passion that always fuel great rivalries. I was delighted to see that the two teams play for a trophy — the Jim Redman Memorial Cup — which you can read all about in our rivalry preview coverage.
Adding trophies to the mix makes rivalries more special. They bring bragging rights to a new level, because the winning team traditionally keeps the trophy at their school until the two teams play again. Trophies also give teams something to play for other than pride. This particularly comes into play when the two teams aren’t in the running for any other championship or postseason play.
That isn’t the case with this year’s edition of Durant versus Plant City. Both teams are are in the middle of successful seasons and still have legitimate hopes of district titles and state playoff berths.
Many rivalry games, both in high school and in college, are between teams in the same league, conference or district. When that happens, as in the case of Durant and Plant City, the weight the game carries is magnified.
In FHSSA, non-district games don’t matter much in the grand scheme, but when district rivals meet, things get interesting.
The next great thing about rivalries: Anything is possible. Don’t ever count any team out. It may not happen as much at the college level, but in high school, players on rival schools usually know each other. Many played together growing up, went to the same elementary and/or middle school or even are best friends.
But when the lights turn on Friday night, all of those relationships are forgotten for 48 minutes. The guy lining up on the left wants nothing more than to outplay the guy to the right — even if two days later, they may share a pew at church.
This will be the case this Friday at Durant. There will be challenges made on Twitter and probably a cheap shot or two taken on Facebook, but for the most part, it is all in good fun and competition. When rivals share city borders, bragging rights are intensified.
Even though I have yet to witness a Plant City-Durant football game, the rivalry reminds me of two of my former coverage high schools up in northeast Georgia — Jefferson and Jackson County, which were separated by only a mile.They didn’t play each other for 25 years, until my first year with my old newspaper, when a reclassification suddenly placed them in the same region.
And in one year, a rivalry had been reborn.