For Columbia County's high school baseball fans, a seven-year itch is about to get scratched.
Finally, the bout everyone has waited so long to see comes to fruition when the Greenbrier and Harlem squads square off Monday in season-opening action at Harlem High School.
The 5 p.m. meeting marks the first and only baseball battle between the Wolfpack and the Bulldogs since Greenbrier began its inaugural season in 1997.
"I imagine there will be a couple of people at that game," Pack coach Ed Williams said of the historic matchup.
Harlem coach Jimmie Lewis set the wheels in motion with a little peacemaking session.
"I met with Coach Williams over the summer, and said we've feuded long enough," Lewis said. "If you'll oblige me, I'll end this feud. We shook hands and said, 'Let's play it.' It was a mutual agreement."
Lewis regularly schedules county opponents Evans and Lakeside, but Greenbrier wasn't a likely candidate to make his Christmas list or his schedule.
"The first year we tried to get games with all the local schools, but I din't make the schedule, so I'm not sure what was said," recalled Williams, who was an assistant under Greenbrier head coach Terry Holder from 1996-99.
Let's put it this way - after Greenbrier opened, the only chance that Lewis would bury the hatchet would be if it did serious damage to the club he loved to hate.
Greenbrier's formation in 1996 took a toll on Lewis and the Bulldogs. Several of Harlem's top baseball players landed at the Brierpatch, including slugger Lamar Leverett and southpaw ace Will Anderson.
Under Holder, Leverett and Anderson were an integral part of the Pack's Class AAA state championship teams in 1997 and '98.
In 1997, Lewis and his young Harlem baseball team lost in the Class AA state semifinals, and losing Leverett and Anderson might have cost Lewis his sixth state title.
That created some animosity, but for Lewis, the stated reason for leaving Greenbrier off the schedule was that he did not want to coach against any of his former players.
In 2000, after all of the ex-Harlem players had graduated from Greenbrier, another problem popped up - Greenbrier pitcher Clete Stewart transferred to Harlem, mainly because he wanted to play for Lewis instead of Williams.
That resulted in more hard feelings, and the Greenbrier-Harlem rift remained.
The gap will be bridged Monday in Harlem, and Williams doesn't view the game as a diamond version of the Hatfields and McCoys.
"I really don't look at it as a feud," Williams says. "I haven't preached to our kids that it's a grudge or a feud. It's another game, but it's going to be a good one."
There could have been a lot of "good ones" between Harlem and Greenbrier, and while Williams senses why the rivalry took so long to be born, he believes it best to just enjoy the fruits of that labor.
"I guess when Greenbrier opened it pulled some kids from Harlem, Evans and Lakeside, but that was seven years ago now," Williams said. "Hopefully that's behind us so we can move on. Now everybody in the county is playing everybody else, and that's good for all the schools."'
Greenbrier and Harlem compete in different regions and classification, so the contest Monday has no ramifications other than local bragging rights.
And in Columbia County, that's enough.
"Our fans are fired up, Greenbrier is fired up to play us," Lewis said. "When the game's over, everyone will be friends and it will be over."
That is, it's over until March 21, when Harlem and Greenbrier stage round two at the Brierpatch.
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