Last Friday, we had Manatee and Southeast.
Tonight, we have Bradenton Christian and Saint Stephen’s.
Two different sets of schools. Two different rivalries.
The annual battle between the Hurricanes and Seminoles is in a class by itself, forever entrenched in the hearts and minds of anyone who has ever followed football in Manatee County.
Everyone knows about the state championships, about the legendary coaches, about the litany of players from each program who have gone on to play big games on Saturdays and Sundays.
The Panthers and this second incarnation of the Falcons have only been around since 2006.
There is no comparison, other than the fact that both represent the essence of prep football.
Every sport has them, but there is something special about it at this level.
Schools are separated by a handful of miles and all the players know each other. They played together during their Pop Warner days. They see each other in the neighborhood.
They are probably all Facebook friends.
(This is 2010, folks.)
I have covered football in three different states, have seen three different brands of football and have received angry emails from three different types of prep football fans.
One thing has stayed constant — the rivalries.
Especially the football rivalries.
Maybe it’s the sounds of the band. Or maybe it’s because the crowds cheer a little louder, or the players play a little harder, or the coaches walk the sideline with a little more purpose.
I don’t know what it is. But when you are at a high school rivalry football game, you know it.
You knew it last week at John Kiker Memorial Stadium, where there wasn’t a moment of silence once the Hurricanes and Seminoles kicked off against each other for the 29th time.
The schools may differ in sizes now and the rosters may be different. But last Friday felt like a playoff game on the campus of Southeast.
And I expect to feel it tonight, too, albeit on a smaller scale. That’s all right, too, because the greatest rivalries and the greatest backyard brawls all began someplace.
The one thing tonight’s Falcons-Panathers tilt has going for it, too, is both teams compete in Class 1B-District 6. A loss won’t just bruise a team’s pride, it will put their postseason hopes on life support.
It’s only September and there is plenty of football left, plenty of opportunities to make more memories with each passing Friday.
But last week gave us a great rivalry game. Tonight may give us a great one, too.
Most importantly, however, is that rivalries will always be part of prep football.
In fact, they will always be the best part.
John Lembo, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2097.