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Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Best Game of the Season, Part 2

Only seven days elapsed before I covered a game that I enjoyed as much, if not more, than the Evangel-Calvary thriller that I prematurely dubbed "The Best Game of the Season."

I guess I was destined to cover a Captain Shreve-Byrd game. I missed the earlier matchup, a 21-10 win by Captain Shreve on Oct. 11 because I was off on a short out-of-town trip. Usually, these sorts of things - the football games, I mean - come around once a year.

But, thankfully, the LHSAA's wacky power-rating process produced a rematch in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs. Neither Byrd coach Mike Suggs nor Captain Shreve coach Ken Ivy wanted to see it happen and for understandable reasons. For most everyone else, it was an unexpected gift from the computers.

Who could've asked for more? Captain Shreve took the early lead and seemed on its way to an easy victory when Byrd rallied and won on 34-yard field goal with only seconds left in the game. There was genuine passion on both sidelines and in the bleachers and, for that, I'm grateful that I was there to witness it all.

For beautiful football, I'd have to say my preference would be Evangel-Calvary. But for a beautiful event, Captain Sheve-Byrd is my choice.

The most notable difference between Captain Shreve-Byrd and Evangel-Calvary, to me, seems to lie in the source of the passion and the origin of the rivalry.

With Evangel and Calvary, both relatively small private schools, the parents and boosters seem to harbor most of the hostility. Call it a holy war of sorts.

There's no need to recount everything that has made Calvary-Evangel what it is today, but there remains a lot of bitterness on both sides. If I were a vengeful man, I'd post some of the nasty e-mails I've received from boosters of both schools, many of them accusing me of picking sides and having a bias toward theirs (there are some notable exceptions to this, of course. Thanks Rodney for the kind note). While the administrators, coaches and players have all been as polite and friendly as any I've encountered during my years as a reporter, it's the supporters of both programs who seem to lug around chips on their shoulders.

However, with Captain Shreve and Byrd, the players and students are the ones who seem to breathe life into the rivalry. Certainly, the alums and other supporters may share cross words but last night felt truly special because it all seemed centered around the actual game. And, ultimately, who can take a simple game played by teenage boys too seriously?

Maybe it's the difference between a "rivalry" that dates back to 1967 and another that only goes back to 2005. Maybe the Calvary-Evangel game will evolve as the alums get older and the past grows more distant and grudges are buried and the football becomes the focus.

It seemed corny at the time, but my experience was summed up nicely by a kind gentleman in the press box whose name I can't remember and that I wouldn't dare to spell. Moments before the kickoff, as I'm going through my usual pregame routine, the man looked over at me and said earnestly: "You know, no matter what anyone says, it's all about the kids with Shreve and Byrd. It really is."

And that's the difference. For now.


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