Sunshine State Features
Numerous Marquee Matchups
RIVALRIES DON’T PAY ATTENTION TO REGULAR SEASON
records. Individuals are absorbed … even future Hall of
Famers don’t outshine these games. A good rivalry started
long before you were born, during an earlier time. If you’re
lucky and talented, you might be able to directly contribute
by taking the field, but only for a fleeting moment. Then, you
will retire to the stands and cheer for the next generation.
A rivalry is about the community of which you are just a
small part. It’s about bragging rights and storytelling and
maybe an eccentric trophy nobody else understands.
That’s why small-town rivalries are so special, and that’s
why neighborhood rivalries are, too. You can’t manufacture a
rivalry, it just happens naturally. Any time two entities are in
close proximity, they’re going to snap at one another.
There are several different types of rivalries. There are
those town vs. town games that go back 90 years, like
Florida’s oldest – Arcadia DeSoto vs. Wauchula Hardee,
Palatka vs. St. Augustine, Avon Park vs. Sebring and Kissimmee Osceola vs. St. Cloud.
Sometimes, rapidly growing towns split their high school
into two schools, instantly creating a rivalry. Take Bradenton
Manatee, for instance. In its early days, the Manatee-Sarasota
game was big-time ball – and honestly, it is still a big rivalry.
But when Southeast came along in Bradenton and
Riverview came along in Sarasota, it took some of the luster
of the Manatee-Sarasota game and put more of a spotlight
on the newly created city games.
Matchups like Orlando’s Edgewater-Boone game,
Tallahassee’s Leon-Lincoln game, Gainesville’s Buchholz-
GHS game, or Ocala’s Forest-Vanguard game are other
examples of “the split.”
And let us never forget the black high school rivalries
that occurred prior to integration. In Tampa, it was Blake vs.
Middleton – school names that thankfully were brought back
in recent years after the schools were shut down in 1971.
They began playing again in 2002, much to the delight of the
In Miami, Dorsey vs. Booker T. Washington was the game
to watch back in the day. It was the granddaddy of all, the
“Soul Bowl” of Florida. Its descendent is the Soul Bowl of
today – Northwestern vs. Jackson.
Sure, dynamics have changed over the years and sometimes the teams don’t have good records, but the communities don’t care. This is their game.
And then there are the great playoff rivalries that have
popped up over the years. Fans thoroughly enjoyed the back-and-forth affair of Lakeland vs. St. Thomas Aquinas when
they matched up deep in the playoffs seven times between
1996 and 2008. Though not geographical rivals these two
mega-programs – with national rankings in tow – seemed
destined to butt heads every year.
Legendary coaches Bill Castle (Lakeland) and George
Smith (STA) put together some of the best football programs
this state had ever seen, but they always seemed to have to
deal with each other – and it made for some great football.
Even with nearly 200 miles separating them, they seemed
It’s fun when rivals come into the game at 8-1 or 7-2. But
it doesn’t matter if they are 1-8 or 2-7. Sure, outsiders may
scoff at the records and say the rivalry is dead because the
teams aren’t having a good year. Or maybe one team has
dominated the rivalry for the past 10 years so it’s not really
Those people simply don’t get it.
This isn’t about selling a game to Monday Night Football,
so the whole country will tune in to see two playoff-bound
teams. It’s not about ratings and it’s not about hype. It’s
about reality – two communities celebrating who they are
and where they’ve been.
As with your family tree, you are wise to acknowledge,
embrace and learn from your past, to participate in and enjoy
your present and lay the groundwork for the future.
A rivalry is a colorful story that isn’t finished yet … and the
blank pages are just waiting to be filled.
BEAT THE BEARS
IN AN EXHIBITION
GAME THAN BEAT
ANYBODY ELSE IN A
– DAVE ROBINSON,
NFL Hall of Fame Green Bay
Packer linebacker, on how
coach Vince Lombardi felt
about the Green Bay-Chicago rivalry
Florida is one of the top three states in the nation when it comes to
high school football (along with California and Texas) and it has
big-time rivalries to prove it. In this section, Friday Night Football
Florida takes a look at some of the best in the Sunshine State.