The Winnersville Classic: Titletown Showdown
Two bitter rivals will add another chapter to their storied rivalry this weekend.
However, neither Gainesville nor Dallas will be the stage for this matchup.
Cross Athens, Columbus, and Los Angeles off the list while you're at it.
This annual showdown, the Winnersville Classic, will take place in the small southern town of Valdosta, GA.
Conveniently located just off I-75, Winnersville is viewed by many as just another restroom stop on the way to Disney World.
But time and time again, the Azalea City proves its doubters wrong.
This past summer, Valdosta was voted ESPN's Titletown USA over sports Mecca’s such as New York, Boston, and Los Angeles, which was a shock to say the least.
There’s more than meets the eye in Valdosta.
Winnersville ain’t no joke.
Valdosta High School is the winningest high school football program in the nation, having accumulated 838 victories, 23 state championships, and six national titles at the conclusion of the 2007 season.
However, Wildcat football has been stuck in a rut recently, hitting the ultimate low with a dismal 1-9 record in 2006.
Despite their recent struggles, Valdosta showed new promise under head coach Rick Tomberlin last season, finishing second in Region 1-AAAAA with a 9-3 record.
As for the Lowndes High football program, the Vikings are in the midst of a phenomenal run.
Lowndes has won four of its five state championships and five Region 1-AAAAA titles since 1999, averaging nearly 11 victories per season during that stretch.
In addition, the Vikings are currently the top-ranked AAAAA team in Georgia and find themselves among the top five AAAAAhigh school teams in many national polls.
However, with two great teams competing in the same town, there is bound to be some bad blood and Valdosta is no exception.
The Wildcats and Vikings hate each other.
Yet, this rivalry goes far beyond the hash marks on each school’s synthetic turf football fields.
Whether it is football, baseball, soccer, or even academic competitions, both schools have one goal in mind.
Lowndes: “Beat Valdosta!”
Valdosta: “Beat Lowndes!”
However, the rivalry boils over in a grand fashion when the two cross-town rivals face off in a game that very often decides the Region 1-AAAAA championship and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Wildcats lead the overall series 33-13, but recently, Lowndes has dominated the rivalry.
With last season’s 18-8 victory over the Wildcats, the Vikings have now won four straight against Valdosta for the first time in the rivalry’s history and have taken seven out of the last 11 meetings.
However, prior to the dawn of the 21stcentury, Valdosta dominated the Winnersville Classic, winning 30 out of the first 34 installments of the series.
Despite the tension between the two football programs, Lowndes and Valdosta fans engage in everyday activities with one another throughout the year and the rivalry always features good sportsmanship from both sides.
Sometimes, you can even find ‘Cats and Vikings in the same family.
If that isn't enough, Wildcats and Vikettes and Vikings and Lady Cats end up getting married.
I don't know about you, but that could make for some awkward family gatherings, especially during football season.
While, Valdosta and Lowndes fans are capable, but sometimes unwilling, to co-exist peacefully for 51 weeks out of the calendar year, the week of the rivalry game leads to a competitive atmosphere throughout the town.
The Winnersville Classic brings out a great deal of pride from both schools, as Wildcat and Viking apparel become more common throughout the week.
In addition, some people even stand in line for hours just to purchase tickets for the Valdosta-Lowndes game, a sign of true loyalty to your school.
Sometimes, fans from each side will help each other get the tickets for the game, a gesture of good ol’ Southern hospitality and looking our for your fellow neighbor.
These two schools may not like each other when they strap on the pads, but the good camaraderie between the two fan bases truly makes this rivalry great.
At week’s end, when Friday night finally arrives, the whole city shuts down.
Bazemore-Hyder Stadium will be bursting at the seams while the rest of Titletown USA listens attentively to the play-by-play on the radio.
The Winnersville Classic this Friday will prove to be an emotional, hard-fought game, but only one team will emerge victorious.
It will be a tough contest between the two schools, with each side desperate for bragging rights and school pride.
Both Valdosta and Lowndes will give it their all on the field, fired up on adrenaline and ready to play a hard-hitting football game.
Even though only one school will be pleased with the game’s outcome, everyone involved will be winners, as cliché as it sounds.
Every fan, player, and coach who partakes in this passionate rivalry will benefit from the dedication that they will see on the field.
They will experience the determination of the players on the field who will give 110 percent until the clock runs out.
In the words of legendary Valdosta coach Nick Hyder, “Never, never, never quit!”
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