Middle Georgia’s top rivalry takes center stage

dshirley@macon.comNovember 1, 2012 

My high school had a city rival, a school we all disliked immensely, especially when our athletics teams played its teams.

Our school -- Westside High School in Anderson, S.C. -- was pretty good, but our teams typically couldn’t get the best of T.L. Hanna (the school that was featured in the movie “Radio”), and that was especially true in football. It was a good rivalry, but it was nothing like I have experienced since moving to Georgia and working in this state for most of my career.

During that time, I have witnessed first-hand two of the best rivalries around.

The first stop in my career came in Valdosta, and it was an eye-opener to be around the Valdosta-Lowndes football game, which is dubbed the Winnersville Classic. For most of that series’ existence, Valdosta has owned that game (it leads the series 34-17 overall), and at the time I lived in Valdosta, the Wildcats were riding a 13-game winning streak in the series.

Lowndes has turned things around, winning 12 of the past 16, and that has amped up the intensity in the rivalry.

It was fun to be around the series and the town, especially the week of the game. The town really turns its focus to that Friday night and what is going to happen at Martin Stadium or Cleveland Field. And there are clear lines down the middle. There is no cheering for Valdosta and Lowndes; it’s just not done.

The atmosphere around the town for the week -- there’s a parade, after all -- was something I had never seen before covering high school sports … that is, until I moved to Middle Georgia.

As intense as the Valdosta-Lowndes rivalry is, it’s matched -- at the very least -- by the Northside-Warner Robins rivalry. Warner Robins leads the all-time series 33-21, but Northside has won six of the past seven meetings.

Much like the Valdosta-Lowndes game, it’s not just about Friday night (Northside head coach Kevin Kinsler called it a “five-day event”) as residents of the city pick sides for the game. While Valdosta still just has the two GHSA programs, Houston County has added a couple recently in Veterans and Houston County to spread out the fan bases a little bit.

But that hasn’t changed this game or rivalry much. It’s still the focus of Warner Robins, and it’s still one of the must-see games in the state each season.

Last year, the teams were one win away from facing off for the state title at the Georgia Dome, but both fell just short of playing for the championship. The Eagles and Demons, however, are right back in the hunt this year: Northside is 8-0 overall and 5-0 in GHSA Region 2-AAAAA, while Warner Robins is 7-1 and 5-0. The Eagles are ranked No. 1 in Class AAAAA, while the Demons are ranked ninth.

In short, it’s a huge for both teams and all the fans in the town.

But that’s nothing new. It always is.

Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or dshirley@macon.com

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