Commentary: Rivalry great way to start season

Published 5:02 pm Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Maybe it was growing up with such an interest in the Iron Bowl, but it seems rivalry games are meant to be played at the end of the football season.

That being said, it also seems to be difficult to think of a better way to start the season than last week’s Highway 31 Throwdown between Chilton County and Jemison.

Surprising many, CCHS absolutely dominated the first half of the game and took a 20-8 lead a few minutes into the second half. Chilton was starting a quarterback in sophomore Cameron Cummings that had never before thrown a pass at the varsity level. So, Cummings and the Tigers ran the football to build their lead.

As would befit such a great rivalry, though, Jemison came back and made it interesting. In fact, the Panthers had all the momentum and a chance to take the lead on a 2-point conversion try with 22 seconds remaining in the game, but CCHS defender Jacob McKinney made the kind of play that will be remembered for a long time, intercepting a pass in his end zone and preserving the win for the hosts.

The joy evident on the Clanton side of the field was one of those scenes that makes covering high school athletics enjoyable. The pain on the Jemison sideline, though, erases any happiness I might feel personally.

That’s the thing about this job that may be difficult for those not in my shoes to understand. Being raised outside of Chilton County, my only connection to any of the sports teams here is that I know many of the players and all of the coaches that make up those teams—and have found these players and coaches to be friendly no matter where I’ve gone.

So, any decisions made about the Advertiser’s sports coverage—for example, which team might be picked to win this week’s Billingsley-Isabella game—has nothing to do with playing favorites. I have too much respect for coach Scott Booth at Isabella just to pick against the Mustangs because I may think that Billingsley coach Joe Nettles is a nice person. In the same way, I’m not going to pick Isabella just to get Billingsley players fired up about playing. Nettles can do a fine job of that without my help.

No, any pick I make is based solely on who I think will win the game—and not on who I would like to see win the game. Those are two entirely different things. Trust me, I would like to see every local team win every one of its games and for us to have several teams playing at the Super Six in Auburn at the end of the year, not least because I’ve never gotten to cover a football state championship game.

But that’s not what the picks are about; they’re reflective of what I think will actually happen on the field. I’m going to be wrong on plenty of occasions, but maybe I’ll be right some, too.

And when I’m wrong, I’m sure someone on the winning sideline will let me know about it.

That’s OK; I won’t take it personally. If I pick against your team, that’s not personal, either.

–Dawkins is the assistant managing editor for The Clanton Advertiser.