Rivalry renewed: Annual showdown is more than an exhibition

Published 7:28 pm Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Friday night’s annual showdown between crosstown rivals Charles Henderson and Pike County is technically nothing more than a jamboree game – but don’t tell that to the players and coaches involved in the matchup. It’s a rivalry that current and former players still dream about it.

Friday’s game won’t show up in the record book when the season comes to a close in November, but both teams and their fan bases will treat it as such.

“We don’t take Pike County lightly,” said Trojan head coach Brad McCoy. “It’s a very good rivalry. Our kids and I know their kids always get pumped up for this game each year. It’s something that I think our community really gets excited about in Troy and Brundidge.”

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Players on both sidelines are very familiar with each other. Players on both teams grew up playing each other in many sports at the recreation level. At one time, many of these players may have been teammates. Now they are going head to head.

“I think it starts with the proximity of the cities of Troy and Brundidge,” McCoy said. “You talk about nine miles or so separates these two communities. You have a lot of kids that are in Brundidge that played recreation ball maybe in Troy. You have a lot of these kids that are very familiar with each other.”

Bulldogs head coach Fred Holland expects there to be a packed house full of passionate football fans.

“It’s the start of the season for all of us,” Holland said. “Fans, players and coaches from both communities are eager to see some football. People here love football and I think it will be a very exciting time for all of us.”

Although they may be friends off the field, when the first Friday night rolls around, those friendships are put on pause.

“You want to beat Pike County into the ground every year,” said former Charles Henderson quarterback Noah Lowery. “It’s just a backyard rivalry. They are the closest team to Charles Henderson. We always wanted to beat the heck out of Pike County and I think it’s the same for them too.”

“It’s exciting,” said Bulldog Jeremiah Foster. “We are just trying to prove who is the best.”

The rivalry marks the arrival of high school football in the Pike County area. Fans and students always get excited on game days, but there is always something different about the first Friday night of the season.

“It’s the start of high school football,” Lowery said. “There is going to be excitement there. For it being Pike County, there is even more of an atmosphere.”

Even though it is a rivalry game, it is just one game. For Foster, it’s a game he treats like all the rest despite all the excitement around town.

“I treat all the games the same,” Foster said. “There is a lot of hype and it pumps me up.”

For others, even though the game will not count in the official record book, there may be something even more important on the line, bragging rights.

“It’s not a regular season game, but we treat it like one,” Holland said. “It’s for bragging rights for 365 days. We look at it like a full contest. The rivalry is always big. We look forward to it and they look forward to it, so I think it will be a very exciting time for all of us.”