When you think about great rivalries in sports, you think Ohio State-Michigan football, Duke-North Carolina basketball and, of course, Yankees-Red Sox baseball.
But some of the best rivalries in the country take place on a smaller scale. There are countless high school grudge matches each year, between teams in neighboring towns, where teams don't need the national spotlight to get hyped for an annual showdown. All these teams need is the chance for bragging rights.
"Passion fuels high school sports, and no place is this more evident than in high school football rivalries," SchoolSports CEO Jim Kaufman says. "We're thrilled to be a part of some of the biggest rivalries in the country and celebrate the excitement at each of these events."
And that's what the SchoolSports Rivalry Tour Presented by Old Spice will provide: plenty of passion and excitement. It's a chance for some of the nation's best teams and fiercest rivals to collide on the gridiron. The Tour, which features many of the top squads in the country, kicks off Saturday with a heavyweight showdown between Cincinnati powerhouses Colerain and St. Xavier.
Colerain is the No. 6 team in the country, according to SchoolSports.com, and went 15-0 with a Division I state title last fall. It is led by stud senior All-State offensive lineman Connor Smith and senior linebackers Cobrani Mixon and Tyler Moeller. With 12 starters back from last year, the Cardinals look to be in good shape to repeat.
But they will encounter resistance from St. Xavier, another of the top teams in Ohio. The Bombers return 10 starters, led by running back Chris Cionni, who ran for 1,204 yards last fall. St. Xavier went 11-1 last year.
The game will be held at the University of Cincinnati and is expected to draw more than 30,000 people. It is the perfect way to kick off the 10-game Tour. In all, over 200,000 people are expected to watch those games.
Other SchoolSports.com top-25 teams to see action will include Mission Viejo (Calif.), Lakeland (Fla.) and Union (Tulsa, Okla.). Traditional power teams like De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) will participate, as will last year's Georgia Class AAAA champion, Warner Robins.
The Diablos of Mission Viejo headline the Tour, as the only team that will participate twice. They are SchoolSports.com's No. 1 team in the land and will first travel to Seattle's Qwest Field to face Issaquah (Wash.). Mission Viejo lost quarterback Mark Sanchez to USC, but return 11 starters, including six All-CIF choices and nine Division I recruits. The team is led by senior running back Chane Moline and senior tight end Konrad Reuland.
Later on in the year, the Diablos return to the Tour to host De La Salle and its legendary program, coached by Bob Ladouceur.
One of the other marquee matchups to keep an eye on will be the battle of Oklahoma between Union and Jenks (Okla.). These two teams have won the last nine Class 6A state titles.
Union, which is ranked No. 7 by SchoolSports.com, went 13-1 last fall and won the Class 6A state title. Its offensive line is immovable, led by seniors Casey Thurder and Seth Cowar and junior Matt Romine. DB/RB Dominique Franks is an explosive two-way player who runs a 4.4 40.
Jenks, meanwhile, went 12-1 last season and returns 12 starters. The Trojans are very strong on the line of scrimmage, with senior offensive linemen Chase Beeler and Cody Combs leading the way.
These are just some of the exciting games that will be taking place all season long as the SchoolSports National Rivalry Tour rolls across the nation.
Complete 2005 Tour Schedule
Colerain vs. St. Xavier - 8/27 - University of Cincinnati (Ohio)
Chelsi vs Novi - 8/27 - Eastern Michigan University (Mich.)
Issaquah vs Mission Viejo - 9/5 - Quest Field (Wash.)
Tulsa Union vs Jenks - 9/8 - University of Tulsa (Okla.)
Woodlands vs Klein - 9/30 - Moorehead Stadium (Texas)
Naperville Central vs Naperville No. - 10/7 - North Central Coll. (Ill.)
Mission Viejo vs De La Salle - 10/8 - Mission Viejo Stadium (Calif.)
FM Marcus vs Lewisville - 10/14 - Texas Stadium (Texas)
Warner Robbins vs Northside - 10/21 - "The MAC" Stadium (Ga.)
Lakeland vs Lakeland Kathleen - 11/4 - Bryant Stadium (Fla.)