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UC-Central rivalry finished, for now

UC-Central rivalry finished, for now

By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
Friday’s Obion County Central-Union City football game will apparently be the last played between the two county rivals for a while.
Both UCHS Principal/Athletic Director Wes Kennedy and Tornado head coach Darren Bowling confirmed a widespread rumor after the Twisters had beaten OC 40-13 at War Memorial Stadium that the long-running series would be at least temporarily suspended by Union City’s doing.
“Nobody loves a rivalry more than me, but I’ve grown really tired the last couple of years of the division between our schools that some of their (Obion’s) coaching staff has caused in multiple sports with their actions,” Kennedy said.
“I made this decision.”
Union City had already chosen not to schedule Obion Central in basketball during the coming season for what Kennedy said was the same reasoning.
“This is not about the kids anymore, like it’s supposed to be,” he said.
Kennedy did not give a timetable for revisiting the matter.
Likely, the two schools won’t play in baseball or softball either. Competition on the tennis courts and the golf links will continue, however, as they are both in District 14A-AA.
The two schools — separated by less than 10 miles — have played on the gridiron every year since 1962, the year after OCCHS opened its doors. Union City now holds a 39-12 advantage all-time in those meetings after Friday.
Though the Rebels have always had a larger student population and are now a Class 4A entry while UC in single-A, the game has become very competitve of late and traditionally has been the largest gate and biggest money-maker of the season for both schools.
Friday’s crowd at War Memorial Stadium was close to capacity with several fans standing along the fence on both sides.
“It’s not all about money,” Kennedy responded when asked how and with whom he intended to replace the game receipts with.
Obion Central Athletic Director Craig Rogers — asked his reaction on the matter — said: “I think the last time we did football scheduling, there was talk of them not wanting to play. In basketball, I believe our coaches said they have a text from from (Union City boys’) coach (Shane) Sisco saying they didn’t have any open dates. I don’t know if this stems from that or not, but we’d heard rumors of this and I think our football coach has already been looking around at some other people to play.
“I look at the gate. I know what we did last year, and that’s big to have to replace. I’ve heard people say, ‘If we beat them we’re supposed to because we’re 4A and Union City is 1A, and if we don’t it looks bad.’ I just know that the schools are close from a proximity standpoint, and I think it makes sense for us to play from a gate and geographic standpoint.
“Maybe it’ll be a situation like they’ve had at Dyersburg and Dyer County where they’ll take some time off and then talk about starting to play again.”
Bowling echoed his administrator’s thoughts when asked about the suspension of the rivalry after the contest.
“I coached at Obion Central and I still consider myself friends with a lot of people who support Obion County Central, but there are some things going on there that I just don’t want to be a part of anymore,” said the UC coach who headed the Rebel program from 2003-07 and led OC to its first-ever state playoff victory. “I’m not interested in airing a bunch of dirty laundry, but as long as the things  continue to go on that have been going on the last couple of years, I just think it’s best that our program here stay away from playing them.”
“A lot of people talk about the money aspect. Money’s not the most important thing. I think our program is at a point to where we can consistently play two or three or four rounds in the playoffs and we’ll make up that money.”
Bowling and Central skipper Shawn Jackson did not participate in the traditional head coach’s handshake after the game.
Jackson insisted he did not want the rivalry to end.
“This is all on their (Union City’s) end,” said the fifth-year Central coach who is now 2-3 against the Tornadoes. “It’s not for me to decide.
“I’m not bigger than football in Obion County. Auburn is not going to stop playing Alabama for any reason. I don’t want to break tradition.”
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by email at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

Published in The Messenger 8.20.12

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