Columbia County has numerous well-known sports rivalries, from the established Evans-Lakeside to the one that is sure to blossom between Harlem and second-year school Grovetown.
Meanwhile, a lesser-known rivalry between a Columbia County program -- Harlem softball -- and a school from outside the county -- Thomson -- has peaked in intrigue this season.
One reason is because Harlem has established itself as a program to be reckoned with as the state playoffs approach. One way the Bulldogs did that was by defeating Thomson, 12-7 in their Region 3B-AAA game Sept. 9.
After Tuesday's 13-0 win over Josey, Harlem held an 18-6-2 record and a 5-0 mark in subregion play. Thomson was 13-7 with a 4-1 subregion record.
Harlem's win over Thomson was big for Columbia County's Bulldogs for several reasons. For one, Thomson swept Harlem last season, with 15-3 and 4-3 victories. In addition, Thomson won a pair of early-season games this year -- 4-1 and 10-4 -- between the two.
The reason the Sept. 9 meeting is so important is because it was the one among the three this season designated as a region game, leaving Harlem as the top seed and Thomson the second seed in the subregion.
It is also important because it was the last game they played, giving Harlem momentum if the two are matched up again, either in the region tournament or the state playoffs.
The Region 3-AAA tournament started Saturday at Diamond Lakes in south Augusta. Play will continue Tuesday until a winner -- and seeding for the state playoffs -- is determined.
Another reason the rivalry has built up this season is because both teams have found themselves in the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Poll.
At the time of their Sept. 9 meeting, Thomson was No. 6 in the poll. Now, Thomson is out of the rankings, while Harlem is No. 10.
It will be interesting to see how it comes out if the teams are matched up again.
Thomson has a slightly better winning percentage during the past three seasons (61-33-1 from 2007-2009) than Harlem (60-46-1), but maybe a big win over the softball rivals will give Columbia County's Bulldogs plenty of confidence going into the postseason.
Looking ahead to next season, remember this: Harlem features just two seniors. The Bulldogs could be even better next season.
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