Editorial: Hoping respectful rivalry continues
Let’s keep this going. We want more.
Ridgeland-Hardeeville High and Thomas Heyward Academy played a dramatic football game last Friday, one that made us hungry for the continuation of the matchup between the Jasper County School District public school and the Ridgeland private school.
In the fall of 2015, RHHS coach Jahmaal Nelson and THA coach Nic Shuford signed a two-year, home-and-home agreement.
Last August the host Jaguars beat the Rebels 35-6 in front of a packed Jaguar Stadium crowd that featured more than 900 fans. The game was the first varsity football game between the public school and Thomas Heyward since THA was founded in 1970.
On Friday, Harvey-Beach Stadium was full of Rebels and Jaguars supporters who were treated to a 12-8 RHHS victory. The game wasn’t decided until late in the fourth quarter.
There were certainly season-opening jitters (the first half was scoreless and there were three turnovers), but all four quarters were competitive.
After the game, the players shook hands at midfield and joined, shoulder to shoulder, in a post-game prayer. It was a wonderful scene that should have the chance to be repeated for years to come.
The schools haven’t signed a contract to renew the rivalry after this year, but we hope an agreement is in the works. It makes sense.
The schools are just 1.5 miles apart. Travel costs are saved, hundreds of people are guaranteed to attend, and there’s likely to be good football.
RHHS pulled away to win last year’s inaugural matchup, but the lead was just eight points at halftime. This year’s contest featured two fourth-quarter lead changes and THA had the ball deep in RHHS territory in the final minutes.
The respectful rivalry is a great way to kick off the season.
The demand for more Jaguars-Rebels contests was apparent after Friday’s game.
Paul Pender, whose son River is a junior on Thomas Heyward’s team, said he’s “begging” for the matchup to continue.
The coaches enjoy the contest, too.
Nelson said it’s important for the community to join together.
“At the end of the day, we are all one community,” Nelson said. “We have to be able to come together and support each other. I would love to continue to get together.”
Shuford said the players support and root for each other.
“They have a good group of guys over there and we’ve got a good group,” he said. “There’s no reason we can’t pull for each other.”
After the game THA assistant Mike Heath pointed out the fans who were on the field talking with each other, enjoying post-game camaraderie.
“Look around, you see a lot of folks, old friends, mingling out on the football field. It’s a good thing to see,” he said.
We agree. We hope it continues.