South Hagerstown High School wide receiver/defensive back Jakerian Jones lived on Hagerstown’s north end until he was in middle school and has friends that go to North Hagerstown High School.
Friday night, Jones, 17, will be fighting to keep the Gridiron Classic trophy away from the area he once called home.
“I’m just trying to keep the trophy here as long as I can,” he said. “Before I got here, it was never here for a long period of time. Since it’s my senior year, and we have to make the playoffs, it’s probably going to take all of my energy.”
The 56th annual North High Hubs-South High Rebels football game scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m. at South High’s School Stadium has more to it than just the pride of winning a fierce rivalry game. Both teams, at 8-1, are in the position to qualify for the region playoffs, with the winner of Friday’s contest guaranteed a spot in the Class 3A West tournament.
Adding to the drama, North lost the 2011 game 40-7, ending the Hubs’ eight-game winning streak in the series.
Bradley Taman, 17, plays center for North High and said that it is the Hubs’ biggest game of the year, especially given the fact that they lost the trophy in 2011.
“It got taken away from us last year, and we’ve done everything we possibly could to do our best up to this point,” he said. “It’s come up to this point where we have to get our trophy back.”
Despite what’s at stake for the game, the rivalry to many students and administrators means much more than just implications on the football field.
“The rivalry is a really good way to get school spirit and get more people involved,” South High senior Michaela Brewer, 17, said. “It’s something to always look forward to. We have tons of people always come.”
Brewer, who said she has some friends who go to North, said that the rivalry is exciting for both schools.
Zoe Schrieber, 15, a sophomore who plays volleyball at North, described the rivalry as “real.”
“For the most part on the surface it’s friendly and fun, but I know other people and I do get riled up about it,” she said. “Being a student athlete, the rivalry has been there for a while, especially after last year.”
North High head coach Dan Cunningham, who has coached at the school for 12 years and also went to school there, described it as a friendly rivalry.
“What the city’s done in creating the (Gridiron Classic) trophy and the atmosphere of the game has really added to the value of the game,” he said. “The rivalry has remained strong through the years.”
The trophy, on Thursday, was in the office of Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and will be given to the winning school after the game.
Duane McNairn is in his first year as principal of North, but prior to that he was an assistant principal at South and at E. Russell Hicks Middle School, allowing him to see the rivalry from both angles.
“There’s going to be one winner and one loser in the game, but there’s going to be a lot of pride on that field and throughout the community,” he said. “It’s going to be a great game. We know that going into it there’s a lot on the line for both those teams.”
South High Principal Timothy Dawson said the rivalry helps bring the community together.
“As you drive around the community you see green banners and red banners hung around in different stores and places,” he said. “It’s not just a rivalry between two schools. It’s what galvanizes the communities.”
McNairn and Dawson plan to give each other a gift for the game. Dawson said he had already gotten McNairn a red tie.
South Head Coach Toby Peer, who is in his third season, said that he focuses on the rivalry from a football perspective but has seen how important it is to the community.
“From the aspect of football it’s our arch-rival, but to the people who went to school here, ever wore the uniform, or is from Hagerstown, it’s a whole lot more,” he said. “It’s a livelihood.”