The feathers will always be ruffled.
The players at North Augusta and Strom Thurmond live too close to one another for tonight's opener not to raise a few tempers.
The Rebels broke a seven-game losing streak to their rival at home in 2004. Strom Thurmond traveled to North Augusta last year and routed them 36-0. Strom Thurmond linebacker Kenneth Griffin dashed around after the game with a flyswatter, looking for a few more Yellow Jackets to swat. It was the worst loss in the history of the series.
The feathers were ruffled even more during the off-season when North Augusta hired away Dan Pippin from South Aiken to take over as head coach. Pippin's teams at South Aiken had beaten Strom Thurmond each of the past four seasons, including the only blemish on last season's state championship campaign.
His teams gave the Rebels two of their only three losses over the past two seasons. If any coaching staff had the answers for the Rebels, his did.
Word spread that in one of Pippin's first meetings with North Augusta's boosters that he promised he'd never lose to Strom Thurmond at North Augusta. The comment has since spread to the Strom Thurmond coaching staff.
Pippin acknowledged the statement on the first day of practice this summer. But he also said it was not a comment he'd want attributed to him in print.
"The fact is I have never lost to Strom Thurmond," Pippin said on July 28. "And I don't want to start at North Augusta. We're going to do all we can to win. If we can, we will. But Strom Thurmond has a great team coming back."
Pippin downplayed his success against Strom Thurmond this week. He said he didn't play one snap in those games.
"If our kids are going to base what we want to build here off of just one game then we haven't done a good job of selling them on what we are trying to do," he said.
But even he can't control what his players have already said.
New Strom Thurmond quarterback Aramis Hillary got an earful. He's replacing his older brother, Coco Hillary, one of the best quarterbacks in the area the past two years.
"I talked to a couple of guys who play for North Augusta and they said they weren't too worried about us because we don't have Coco anymore," Aramis said.
"I've been taught not to talk trash. Coco told me not to talk trash and just let my actions show on the field. But I hated hearing it. It got me hot. It made me want to fight. Well, not fight. But go settle it on the field."
Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Friday nights this season, get local game scores updated quarter by quarter, at www.augustachronicle.com.
GAME OF THE WEEK
What: North Augusta at Strom Thurmond
When: 8 tonight
What's at stake: The season opener for two teams who consider each other chief rivals.
History: Strom Thurmond has won the past two games. North Augusta holds a 16-6 edge in the rivalry dating back to 1970.
Last year: Class AAA Strom Thurmond went 14-1 and won the state title. Class AAAA North Augusta went 5-6 and missed the playoffs.
Tickets: $6 at the gate
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