A new football rivalry was born Friday night when Augusta Christian made the quick trip over to North Augusta to face Fox Creek High School.
The game between the two schools marked the first in what will be an annual rivalry called the "River Bash." The winner each season will take home a trophy in the form of a full-size riverboat paddle.
"For years we've been searching for that rivalry-type game," Augusta Christian coach Bruce Lane said. "Tradition is very important in high school athletics. The ability to have a cross-town rival was very important to us."
The rivalry, including the regular season trophy that will move from year to year, isn't the first of its kind in Columbia County. At least three other trophies exist in Columbia County history as spoils for the winner of a rivalry matchup.
Augusta Christian and its nearest Georgia Independent Schools Association football opponent Curtis Baptist established the "Augusta Bowl" in 1991 with the winner taking home a large trophy with a full-size football mounted on the top. The Lions won the Augusta Bowl seven out of the eight times the two schools faced off, and the rivalry died out when Curtis Baptist failed to field a football team in 1998. The trophy still sits in the Lions' football locker room.
Augusta Christian assistant football coach Charles Cooper played for the Lions during those years.
"That was a very heated rivalry," he said. "They started football my sophomore year, and we beat them something like three straight years. The first year after I graduated we lost, and even though I was in college I was devastated."
Augusta Christian hasn't cornered the market on rivalry trophies in Columbia County. The oldest and longest-running matchup came from the Harlem Bulldogs and Evans Knights back when the two were the only high schools in Columbia County. The annual rivalry game dated back to 1960, with the winner taking home a trophy sponsored by the Columbia County Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6445.
Harlem first took home that trophy in 1960 with a 20-7 win over Evans. Neither school knows exactly where that trophy is today. However, another trophy was created in the 1970s with a similar purpose; a trophy case at Evans holds the Martinez-Evans Jaycees Trophy, which was awarded to the Evans/Harlem winner from 1978 to 1985.
"I remember that," Harlem coach Jimmie Lewis said. "I remember it being a pretty big deal back then."
Evans assistant coach Mickey Derrick said he vaguely recalled the passing of a trophy back and forth. He also said the teams stopped playing each other after 1985, in part, because of reclassification and region realignments that separated the two schools.
Harlem and Evans didn't play again until 2004 when the friendship between Lewis and then first-year Evans coach Marty Jackson brought the two schools back to the same playing field. The teams have played each other for the past three seasons.
The county's four public high school junior varsity teams also compete for The Columbia County News-Times JV County Cup, a trophy created by Cudos in 2005. The trophy was awarded after several years in which the four schools had, for years, recognized the county's champion team as winner of the "county cup," even though an actual trophy "cup" didn't exist.
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