What makes a good rivalry?
Is it longevity, proximity, competitive fire or handsome box office receipts?
These questions come to mind as the regular season in all classifications except 4A concludes this week. Week 10 is the closest Midlands football comes to a rivalry week.
On tap Friday night are four games that fit the classic parameters of a rivalry game: Brookland-Cayce vs. Airport, A.C. Flora vs. Dreher, Hammond vs. Heathwood Hall and Batesburg-Leesville vs. Saluda.
“A lot of factors go into making a good rivalry,” said Bob Hanna, whose Irmo program doesn’t have a season-ending rivalry game but is unique in the Midlands in that it has two annual high-interest games against Dutch Fork and Lexington.
“To me the most important thing is having communities that are close together and have a lot of interaction. Those two games are our biggest games of the year, no doubt. The winner gets to give their friends the business all year. A loss sticks with the coach, players and fans a long time. It’s like Clemson-Carolina, only on a smaller level.”
At A.C. Flora, playing Dreher is the highlight of the season.
“For the student body and our alumni, it’s Dreher and always has been,” said A.C. Flora athletics director Charlie Wentzky. “The schools are two miles apart and have been playing since the early 1960s, so it’s an obvious rivalry. Other than maybe homecoming, it’s our biggest gate of the year.”
Of the four rivalry games tonight Flora-Dreher has been the most hotly contested. Flora has won five in a row over the Blue Devils to take a 25-23-2 lead in the series that started in 1961.
Airport and Brookland-Cayce are the most familiar of foes – playing 66 times since the inaugural meeting of the Lexington 2 school district schools in 1966. The lure of big crowds has prompted the schools to schedule home-and-away games in the same season 18 times.
B-C ended a 10-game losing streak against the Eagles with a dramatic Week 1 win and would like nothing better than to lock down a state playoff berth and complete a season sweep of Airport for the first time since 2004.
Hammond vs. Heathwood Hall has been the standard for area independent schools, meeting every season but one since 1982. The series includes two championship encounters, both won by Hammond.
Batesburg-Leesville and Saluda started their inter-county rivalry in 1920 and have met every season since 1950. B-L traditionally has dominated the neighboring Tigers with a 49-26-1 series advantage, but Saluda has had the upper hand of late with two straight wins against the Panthers.
Other Midlands rivalries of note, in no particular order: