The Marion and Washington County High school athletics rivalry will continue, according to school officials.
Robin Cochran, superintendent of Washington County Schools, said last Wednesday via email that representatives from both schools met and decided to continue the rivalry.
“We have reached an agreement that moving forward, should there be any additional known acts of violence, vandalism, misbehavior, etc., there will be an agreed upon disruption in the schedule for upcoming years,” Cochran said via email. “In other words, this will mean a suspension of the games between Marion and Washington County.”
The rivalry was called into question after extensive damage was caused at Bennett R. Lewis Field on Washington County High School’s campus on the night or morning before the Marion and Washington County football game. Damage was also caused at John Boswell Field on Marion County’s campus the same night or morning.
Washington County High School Principal Paul Terrell said he is excited the series will continue, but security would now be increased prior to the games.
“One of the things we are going to do is provide more security the week of the game and look at installing cameras in the football field area, that will be motion-sensored and snap pictures at night,” Terrell said.
The two schools met in a volleyball match last week, he said, and there was a huge crowd in both student sections.
“After the game, there was a winner and loser, then everyone went home without incident,” Terrell said. “It was a great night.”
Dr. Chuck Hamilton, the superintendent for the Marion County public school system, said the rivalry is a valuable part of the connection between the two communities.
“Having been a part of the rivalry as a player, coach and fan, it saddens me to think the senseless acts of a few could bring to an end something generations have enjoyed,” Hamilton said. “However, the escalation of prank to vandalism leaves neither district much choice but to act in drastic fashion to stop the event before it becomes more than enjoyable competition.”
Some of his best friends are former rivals from high school athletics, he said.
“I hope our students will continue to experience the fun and exhilaration of being part of a historic, good-natured rivalry,” he said.
Marion County High School Principal Stacey Hall said he was in total agreement of continuing the rivalry with the condition that it ends if more damage occurs.
“This type of silliness has gotten out of hand,” he said. “Hopefully those few who think this is cute will not spoil it for the rest of us.”
Both districts, Cochran said, strive to be proactive and positive inside and outside the classroom.
“While we recognize that the actual event(s) of the game are an enjoyable time for both Marion and Washington County folks, safety of all of our stakeholders (community members, parents, students and staff) is a number-one priority,” she said via email on Wednesday.
She said that both sides regret that actions of a few have led to the discussions that were made about preserving or eliminating the rivalry.
“Additionally, we would like to issue a sincere plea to our communities to bring back the ‘good natured, enjoyable’ rivalry between the two districts in a tasteful and professional manner,” she said.