Rivalry puts us in playoff mood

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 29, 2005

There have been few high school football games this season when I've gone away feeling exhilarated and wanting to watch more.

I remember the day when I would cover a game in south Georgia and there would easily be more than 5,000 people in the stands. You would have to get to the stadium at least an hour early if you wanted a decent parking spot.

In the last nine weeks of the season, I've been to some decent games and then I've been to some that just stunk on ice.

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But my spirits were lifted Thursday night when two of the top teams in Crenshaw County duked it out in front of a standing-room only crowd of 4,000.

The Brantley versus Luverne game typically is a battle for county bragging rights. It's been a fierce rivalry that has come down to the wire most years.

And Thursday night was no different.

If ever there was a game that would set the table for the upcoming playoffs next week, this game would be it.

I was told to get to Glen Daniel Stadium early or it would be a long walk to the stadium. I got there an hour early and there were certain sections of the stadium that were filling up fast.

By kick off, people were lined up four-deep along the fence. The atmosphere was at a fever pitch.

It was unlike any high school football rivalry that I've seen.

There are some great rivalries out there, but this would have to be one of the best among two small schools.

From the opening kick until the final horn, it was just like a playoff game. And the players, coaches and fans made it that way.

Brantley broke out to a quick 13-0 lead, and I thought the Bulldogs would cruise to an easy win until Luverne battled back to take the lead.

The homestanding Tigers bounced back thanks to two quick strikes to the end zone to secure a 14-13 lead.

At this point it looked like this game would go down to the last possession or even offer a chance for overtime.

With each gain or loss on a play the fans yelled at the top of their lungs.

Sure it was a bitterly-cold night in Luverne, but it was hardly noticeable from the excitement on the field.

&#8220You have to play your very best when you play a team like Luverne,” Brantley coach David Lowery said. &#8220We needed a good test like this tonight to give us that springboard into the playoffs.”

With momentum on the Tigers' side going into the second half, Luverne had a chance to add to its lead.

But Brantley's defense, which has taken a backseat to its explosive offense, buckled down and held the Tigers to three plays and a punt.

The Bulldogs then methodically moved down the field to score the game-winning touchdown.

But Luverne was not out of the game. The Tigers had a number of chances to put together a comeback drive, but it was not meant to be.

When the game was over, Luverne coach Brad Waggoner said that there are not any moral victories, but he said that he felt more confident in his team after Thursday's loss than at any other time.

&#8220We lost to a very good team tonight, but I really feel good about our team and our future in the playoffs,” Waggoner said.

It was a game that most fans across south Alabama would only wish for. That wish of mine came true.

Thanks Brantley and Luverne for making my wish come true.

Kevin Taylor is sports editor of The Greenville Advocate. E-mail him at kevin.taylor@greenvilleadvocate.com or call (334) 382-3111 ext. 122.