Mark Clark

Clark is a local sports writer for The

Citizen of East Alabama.

​A hodgepodge of topics
Sept. 28, 2017

Red Devils win ninth brawl in a row

The annual Backyard Brawl was not a whole lot of fun for the Smiths Station High Panthers football team this past Friday night at Garrett-Harrison Stadium. The Panthers lost the contest for the ninth consecutive year. That means that no senior class from the school has beaten the Central High Red Devils in football nine years. Central now leads the series which began in 1992 by a margin of 21 wins to five for the Panthers. 
This year’s final score for Central – 62 points – is the most points scored by the winning team in the rivalry between neighboring schools. But, the Panthers did do something that set its loyal supporters roaring. The Panthers scored their first offensive points of the season in the 62-7 loss. The offensive points came in the fourth quarter with about 4:04 left to play on a 75-yard run by Alex Londano. Londano ran around left end and outran the Central defenders to the end zone for the touchdown. Before that run, the Panthers had scored two total points in their first four games. Those points came when their opponent snapped the football over its punter’s head and out the back of the end zone for a safety.
Oh, and Londano’s run was not just cheered on by his team’s fans alone. Many of the Central fans joined in to cheer him on. The two communities are so intertwined it is hard to be just a fan of one of the two teams. These two communities live with each other, work with each other, worship with each other, shop the same stores and eat the same restaurants 365 days a year – 366 in a leap year. In my family, I graduated from Central while my sister and brother are graduates of Smiths Station.

Prayer brings faithful fans together

Whether you are a Smiths Station fan or a Central fan, you have to be proud of the action taken by the student bodies of both schools during the pregame ceremonies at the 26th Backyard Brawl. Following the playing of the Central alma mater and a moment of silence, the student bodies of both schools recited The Lord’s Prayer very loudly, but very respectful, in protest of a recent unpopular decision by the Lee County Board of Education to stop pregame student-led prayer before football games. The Lee County Superintendent did not want to stop the prayer, but was forced to abide by the recommendation of a Huntsville-based law firm after receiving a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison, Wisc. The organization cited several supreme court rulings against allowing a scheduled prayer before games and the use of district equipment when saying the prayer.
The idea to recite The Lord’s Prayer spread rapidly on the website Facebook. And the students gained a lot of attention for their efforts. Television stations from as far away as Atlanta joined with local stations and newspapers to report the respectful protest of the forced decision to stop the pregame prayers before games in Lee County. The Beauregard High students and fans also protested the decision by reciting The Lord’s Prayer as well at their Homecoming game against Talladega High last Friday night.
More student and parent demonstrations against the decision to ban the student-led prayer are expected in weeks to come. Smiths Station students have invited those who wish to pray to gather around the fence at Panther Stadium in a prayer line with the possible use of a student-owned megaphone being used to recite a prayer for the safety of the players as the students have done over the years. Smiths Station’s next home game is Oct. 13 against Enterprise.

Central takes on biggest rival this week

As much as local fans for Smiths Station and Central want to say each other are their biggest rival, it just is not true for the Red Devils. This week Central will face its biggest rival – Opelika High. Central first played Opelika in 1926 – the first ever season for Central football. Over the years since that first meeting, the two teams have met a total of 74 times. This year will be the Diamond Anniversary – No. 75. The Red Devils lead the series with the Bulldogs 42-32.
The fact that the game this year is at Garrett-Harrison Stadium, home of the Red Devils, does not bode well for the local team. Central has not defeated Opelika in Garrett-Harrison Stadium since 2010 by a score of 30-10. Each of the last three victories for the Red Devils in the series has come at Bulldog Stadium in Opelika. Opelika last won a home game in the series in 2012 in a 37-7 victory.
The most victories in a row in the series are six, done by Central twice from 1952-1957 and 1959-1964. Opelika has won four games in a row three times. The schools have faced each other every year since 1974 – twice in 1986 when they met in the regular season and again in the second round of the playoffs. Current Central coach Jamey DuBose’s Red Devils teams are 2-1 against Opelika.