Rivalries big part of season

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 31, 2002

Rivalries are a big part of sports and Covington County has its fair share of big games that pit neighbors against one another.

The big rivalries in Covington County are the annual Andalusia-Opp high school football game and the annual Straughn-Red Level gridiron contest.

The Andalusia-Opp rivalry remains a big game, but it is not as much of a heated rivalry as it was in years past according to some fans.

Lucky Cope, President of the Andalusia Bulldog Booster Club and a 1974 graduate of Andalusia High School, said the game is still important but it is not as intense of a rivalry as it was when he was in school.

"It's nothing like it used to be," Cope said. "The game still has the same significance, but the hatred is not there like it used to be between the two towns.

"It used to be that you didn't go to Opp and Opp people didn't go to Andalusia, I'm talking about the young people here, for fear of bodily harm," he added. "It's good that it's not like that anymore."

Cope said Andalusia and Opp students, especially athletes, did not hang out with each other. In fact, he said if a group of Opp students walked up on a group of Andalusia students a fight usually broke out.

The rivalry did not go on vacation either. He said if a group from one school meet up with a group from the other school while at the beach during AEA it would still become a "free for all."

Brett Ballard, a 1983 graduate of Opp High School, agreed with Cope's views on the rivalry - even if he is an Andalusia graduate.

"I would say that I don't think it's as big as it used to be," Ballard said. "I can remember when my mom would pick me up at the middle school, go get a snack and then take me to the stadium by 3:30 p.m. to save seats for the game.

"It was just a huge game," he added.

Ballard said when he was on the football team he would have butterflies for a week before kickoff beginning on the Saturday before the game.

As for having friends at Andalusia High School, Ballard said that did not happen.

"We didn't talk or hang out," Ballard said. "We hated each other. We couldn't be anywhere together. There was a fight going to happen everywhere we showed up together."

He said the hatred is not missed, but he would like to see the town come together with the same intensity the rivalry used to create.

"I don't miss the fights and the problems, but I miss the town coming together," Ballard said. "It used to be that all the store windows would be painted and every car in town would have 'Beat Andy' on a window."

He said the Andalusia-Opp rivalry is still big, but the Red Level-Straughn rivalry is "becoming one of the bigger rivalries."

Jimmy Coxwell, who serves as the public address announcer at Red Level games, said the rivalry creates a lot of talk but no animosity.

"I know it is a big rivalry," Coxwell said. "You have a lot of fun with it, but nobody gets carried away.

"There are people predicting what's going to happen and this and that," he added. "But, there is no bitterness."

He said the talk remains talk even after the game.

"You could call it teasing, or whatever, there is a lot of that going on," Coxwell said. "But, when the ball game is over it's over and the winner crows for a year and whoever loses says 'Wait til next year.'"

Derek Dye, a 1999 graduate of Straughn School, said he can remember playing against Red Level when he was a youngster.

"Ever since I was six years old, from Tiny Mites and up it was always the Straughn-Red Level rivalry," Dye said. "We don't like each other when it comes to any school activity, especially football."

Dye said the game means a lot to the players on both teams.

"It means a lot to them because it is for bragging rights," Dye said.