As High School Football opens in the Commonwealth of Virginia there are plenty of great rivalries. Few match the event known as Bluefield vs. Graham on a late August Friday night in front a packed house of 12,000 at Bluefield’s Mitchell Stadium.
A great rivalry was born in the 1980s in the Highlands of the Commonwealth. For years, Covington and Clifton Forge High Schools who were separated by all of about 6 miles played for the Little Brown Jug. But, after the 1983 season, the Alleghany County School system closed Clifton Forge as a High School and consolidated its student body with nearby Alleghany County High School.
Located just 6 miles from Covington, and near the small community of Low Moor, Alleghany County High School kept its school colors but dropped its nickname of the “Colts” and instead adopted the nickname of Clifton Forge and the Alleghany High School Mountaineers were born. Thus was also born a new rivalry between Alleghany and Covington which had its first edition in 1984.
In 1984 Covington dropped from its longtime home in the Group AA Blue Ridge District and joined Group and the Pioneer District. The Cougars were an immediate threat in Group A, but they didn’t exactly get off to a great start, losing on opening night to Group AA powerhouse Giles 9-6 when the Spartans completed their only pass of the night as the winning touchdown. That was the last time, that Covington team would lose.
The Cougars ran the table all the way to the Group A championship beating Lunenburg Central in the Championship Game. Among their wins was a 14-0 win over Alleghany on the first weekend in October.
Over the next few years, the schools would play some classics. It was the rivalry of Covington Running back Timmy Pollard and Alleghany’s stud back Mark Jefferson. It was the game of Covington Coach John Woodzelll against Alleghany’s Kenny Higgins. It was the game we dubbed at WDBJ as the War in the Highlands.
But, like everything over the years things change. Both programs have struggled at times and Covington has just plain struggled to compete in this game. Alleghany is a larger school and the Mountaineers have won 16 of the last 17 games in the series. Covington’s only win this century was an 18-14 win in 2013.
But tonight in Low Moor and Mountaineer Field, the two schools will meet on the field once again. It may no longer be a war, but it is a rivalry with its own trophy, the Brackman Cup named in honor of legendary local sports writer Emory Brackman.
Alleghany has had almost exclusive possession of the cup in recent years interrupted only by an incident a few years back when some vandals (Alleghany students by the way) broke into the High School at night and among other damage threw the Brackman Cup into a local lake.
Officials eventually found the Cup covered in mud and recovered it. My buddy Greg Moore was there shooting for WDBJ that day and caught the recovery of the cup on video.
Thankfully the Cup is still around and so is this game because if you want a good look at what America is all about and the importance of High School Football to communities, this is it.