KEDRICK STOREY: I love rivalries

I was sitting around thinking the other day about how I’ve got a great opportunity as the sports writer for the Southern Sentinel. I get to have a weekly conversation with the citizens of Tippah County. I listen to a lot of sports radio and as you know, I watch a lot of ESPN. My pastor would say I watch too much sports, which is probably true, but that’s a story for another day. Hopefully I’ll address that issue at some point, just not right now. While listening to the many commentators and analysts, I notice how they report the news, but they also have conversations with the audience. You as a reader are part of my audience, and I want to have a conversation with you, weather you’re an avid sports fan or just a casual one. National journalists report the news, but they always add their opinion. They add their opinion to everything they report on, and I don’t see myself doing that, but from time to time I want to give you something to debate in the barber shops, the grocery stores, McDonald’s, or even at the local banks around the county. Today is one of those times. With the B.A.K.E.R.S. Camp being held today and Shaquille Perry recently returning from a football camp at the University of Notre Dame, this week, my mind turned to the gridiron and high school football. The season is fast approaching, and I’m looking forward to the smell of the grass, the sound of the band, and the unforgettable sound of shoulder pads and helmets cracking against each other. But I do have a problem with Tippah County football, and I wonder if anyone else feels the same way. Raise your hand if you think it’s a shame that the three county teams—Falkner, Ripley, and Walnut don’t meet in football on a regular basis. Wouldn’t it be great to see–especially now with all three teams tasting success last year– some of the county’s top football stars on the field at the same time, competing against each other? I know the Joe Bowl is played every year between Falkner and Walnut, but what about a game like Ripley versus Walnut or Falkner versus Ripley? I know I’m not the only sports fan that would love to see that year in and year out. In particular, I would love to see a Walnut versus Ripley showdown on a Friday night. Walnut is a budding Class 2A powerhouse, thanks in part to athletes like Perry. He’s a super athlete with a tremendous upside. The Wildcats have made the playoffs for the last two years and last season they advanced to the third round, winning the most games in the history of the school. They are coached by a fine football mind in Coach Tim Moore, who has resurrected Walnut football. Ripley has been a mainstay in Class 3A and made 10 consecutive post-season appearances, thanks to a potent running attack and a stable of running backs capable of rushing for 1000 yards. Mac McCurry leads them into battle each Friday with his Wing T offense, a headache for opposing defenses. Now doesn’t that sound like two teams you would love to see in a battle for bragging rights? Yeah, I think so too, but both schools have released their schedules for the next two years and neither team shows up the other’s schedule. Picture the excitement of seeing All-County athletes from Walnut like Perry, Hunter Doyle, and Tyler Camburn, lined up across from All-County athletes from Ripley like Devin Jones, who by the way has ties to Walnut, Rashid March, and Chase Chapman. All of those athletes are in the prime of their high school careers and I think it’s a shame that we won’t see them playing against each other. When I played at Ripley, I always looked forward to the first two weeks of the new season. We would play New Albany and Falkner—two good rivalries, two good games. My teammates and I would talk about those games above all others and I would be willing to bet the players of today would do the same thing. I’m sure they do it now. It’s a shame they can’t back their talk up on the field—a shame for county sports fans too. I know that a lot goes into to scheduling and I’m not knocking any of the fine football coaches in the county, but I am a sports fan. As a sports fan I live for good games with good story lines, and cross-town rivals give you that. For example, the Tippah County Tournament in basketball is one of the biggest events of the year, and it always brings out the best in the teams. The fans clearly enjoy it based on the attendance numbers. There’s usually standing room only each night of the tournament. Healthy competition is what makes the sports world go round. For example, North Carolina/Duke in college basketball and Red Sox/Yankees in baseball are talked about for weeks leading up to the games. I would love to see that happen here with local sports. In the meantime, I’ll take the county rivalry that’s already on schedule—the Joe Bowl, which will be played Aug. 27. I’ve already circled the date on my calendar, and I can’t wait to cover it. Kedrick Storey (tippahsports@yahoo.com) is the sports writer for the Southern Sentinel.

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