Who doesn't love a good rivalry?

By JOSHUA CAMPBELL,

Perhaps the best thing about sports is a good rivalry. Rivalries are rooted in utter hatred. When two rivals come together, the all-important bragging rights are on the line.

Here in Marion County there are four rivalries that take precedent above all else, and three of those lead to the Marion County Football Championship. The county title is decided between Columbia, West Marion and East Marion, and it has been a distinction that has been cyclical.

Early on East Marion dominated the trophy before West Marion took it over for six out of eight years and four years straight. Last season Columbia brought home the trophy for just the fourth time.

While Columbia Academy doesn’t factor into the county championship, the Cougars have their own historic rivalry against Simpson Academy. Simpson had topped CA 11 straight times until the Cougars beat Simpson twice in 2016. Simpson has won the last two matchups, and CA is hungry for some payback.

Below are a collection of quotes from players and coaches about what the rivalries mean to them.

CA vs. Simpson

Ras Pace: “Especially since it’s the first game, there’s going to be a little extra juice and extra hype. We go to play them there, and the last time we played them they beat us on a game-winning touchdown in the last second. It means a lot. We don’t like losing to them.”

Riles Stuart: “It means everything. The first game of the season is always big, but against Simpson it makes it that much bigger.”

Cole Rowell: “It fires us up and adds more fuel to the fire. It’s just nitty gritty football. It’s meet you in the hole and come get some.”

Colby Thompson: “It means a lot more than you’d think. It’s complicated. It’s just a thing. We came out the womb hating them.”

Patrick Gill: “We all know each other and have played ball with each other since peewee days. They have good players; we have good players. It’s just one of those things we’ve always had with Simpson. They always think they’re better than us; well, that’s not true. This year we’re going to come out on top at their place.”

Columbia vs. West, East

Head coach Chip Bilderback: “It took all of about 60 seconds of being on this job to figure out how important it was to do well against the team from across the river and East Marion. We want to make sure we play our best. It’s something we don’t really have to harp on a lot with our team because they know those two games matter. It’s like that because it’s spoken about so much in the community.”

Joey Croom on West Marion: “I love every second of it. When I think about it, my favorite game to play is always West Marion because they held it for the longest time.”

Jamison Kelly on East Marion and WM: “They mean a lot. I wanted (the county championship) bad, and we’re going to get it again this year, too.”

Jordan Aaron on WM and EM: “They mean everything because we see those people around the streets walking so it give us street cred if you want to put it that way.”

East Marion vs. CHS, West

Latral Waller: “Those are very hard games and mean a lot. Those games are packed. Everybody from the area comes. I didn’t get to play those two games (last season) because of my shoulder injury, and that hurt me. I really wanted to play those two games. I’m 100 percent this year. I’m ready.

Head coach Kevin Jackson: “They don’t call it the county championship for nothing. These guys take it very seriously. Of course those games are for bragging rights in the town of Columbia, and it means a lot. We’ve only got one county championship since I’ve been here, and it’s tough to beat both of them. Rivalries are always fun with the atmosphere that you play in; I want to play in that every week. Rival games could go either way. The best team doesn’t always win those games.”

West Marion vs. East, CHS

Blake Lowery on Columbia: “The rivalry runs deep. It used to be a West vs. East thing, but now it’s more of a Columbia vs. West rivalry game. Usually one of those teams are the county champs. It’s a big tradition here, and we like to keep pushing it every year.”

Octavious Harvey on CHS: “We can’t lose again. We have to take it back. It hurt everybody, even our fans. The people who would come to every one of our games stopped coming so we felt like we lost everything after that game.”

Qavonte Swanigan on EM: “That county championship is all we talk about. We had it four years in a row, and we’re trying to get it back this year. We’re going to get it back this year. It means a lot to us, especially because they’re right across the river not that many miles away. That rivalry means a lot. We play our hearts out in that game.”

Jeremiah Holmes on EM: “That’s always, always a tough game no matter how good or bad the other team is. Always exciting. D-man (Devin Daniels) is a good player, and he works hard for them. You have to give it to them. No matter what they’re doing, they’re always going to play us tough.”

Jartavious Martin on CHS and EM: “East Marion is kind of with us financially and all that. Columbia, we look at them as bigger than everybody and they’re looking down on us. It’s more hate towards them, but East Marion we still have to get them. All the hype is Columbia, though.”