Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The best county rivalry

In the captivating blog I wrote yesterday about the toughest gyms to play in as a visitor in LeFlore County, Cameron Sanders made a good suggestion.

Cameron suggested that I write about the best rivalries in LeFlore County. That was such a good idea I am going to follow his advice.

After reading his comment, I started thinking (which is one of the key components of trying to write a blog, or anything for that matter), just what is the best rivalry in LeFlore County?

Naturally, this is basketball only since it is that time of the year.

Many would say it is Poteau and Spiro. An easy choice, and also a good one. These are the two biggest schools in the county and like to pound each other whenever they play.

Perhaps, it is Panama and Pocola? Not exactly a lot of love lost when these schools play, eh?

Could it be Howe and Wister? Two longtime foes of the hardwood!

How about Heavener and Poteau? Cameron and Pocola?

And how can we talk about great rivalries and overlook that spirited Hodgen and Monroe clash?

But are these the best rivalries? For me, the best rivalry in the county is one involving two schools who don’t even play during the regular season.
They are located approximately five miles apart as the crow and Highway 59 fly.

Want intensity? Check. A willingness to bash each other’s head against a backboard? Got it. Beating the foe makes the whole year worthwhile? No doubt.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I believe the best rivalry is between Heavener and Howe. Back in the old days when the people of Heavener did not care about basketball, it wasn’t a big deal.

But in the last 20 years or so, the purple and gold vs. the red and white has been a big deal, just about every time the two foes compete.

Since they typically don’t schedule each other, those meetings typically come in the LeFlore County Tournament, which just ups the intensity quite a bit.

Heavener is the bigger school, but Howe has had more success with state championships and more trips to the big house. Basketball is the big deal at Howe. It is also big at Heavener, but there are other distractions such as football, which the Lions and Lady Lions don’t have to worry about.

For 364 days of the year, the residents of these two county teams work with each other, worship together, share how-do-you-do greetings at the store and typically do not want to tear each other’s throat out. In times of trouble, they come to the aid of the other.

But if these two teams are paired up in the game James Naismith invented, there is an intensity that borders on insanity. Normally sane people holler and scream like they have just escaped from a certain facility in Vinita.

Players play a little harder, coaches coach like their job is on the line, and there is an effort by both teams typically only found in a state tournament game.

The noise can border on ear popping. Even during the warm ups.

Heavener and Howe’s boys haven’t played for a couple of years while the girls have met up in the championship game of the past two county championships.

One game was played at UAFS in Fort Smith. Sure, there was another game to follow that night, but there were more people at the game that night than there were when Northside and Southside played in the same facility a month later.

The other meeting was at Spiro, another full house. Heavener and Howe could have been played in Timbuktu and the fans would pack the auditorium (that is, if they have auditoriums in Timbuktu) and behave like they had been bitten by rabid creatures.

Another rendition of this rivalry could happen again this year. For the girls, it would be in the semifinals as Howe is the top seed while the Lady Wolves are seeded fifth.

The only way the boys could play would be in the finals as the two squads are on opposite sides of the bracket.

The NCAA has March Madness. In little old LeFlore County, it is January jubilation, at least for the winning town. But for the losers, there is always next time.

Don’t agree that Heavener and Howe is the best rivalry? Share your observations in the comment section below.

1 comment:

  1. Spot on, Craig! Heavener HATES losing to Howe because they are the bigger school and seem to have something to prove. Two great traditions playing for it all at the county tournament is something to behold. Great article, Craig!