Ranking county’s top rivalry games

Good football can be found throughout Shelby County any given Friday night, but just like anywhere else in the state, rivalry weeks bring out the best in teams.

Rivalries have shifted over the years. The county’s growth in population has created rivalries with the forming of new schools and made games that were once no big deal, now the games everyone looks forward to.

Forty years ago, the county’s biggest rivalry may have been Thompson vs. Shelby County, but with region realignment, the two, as is the case with many others, no longer play one another.

So, with football season a week away, here are the county’s Top 5 active rivalries.

SHELBY COUNTY vs. CHELSEA

For the past decade, Shelby County vs. Chelsea has chased Pelham vs. Thompson for the right to be called the county’s greatest rivalry. Last year’s double hook-and-ladder by Chelsea to end a nine-year run by Shelby County, has helped push the game to the top of the list.

“No matter how good a team is, it’s a nailbiter every time,” Chelsea quarterback Blake Yance said. “We’ve played them since we were five, every year. It’s like the Iron Bowl. There’s games we need to focus on one at a time, but everybody in the back of their head is thinking about Shelby County week’s away.”

Last year’s win by Chelsea kept the Wildcats of Shelby County out of the playoffs. When the teams meet this year on Oct. 24, it could mean a region title.

PELHAM vs. THOMPSON

Ever since Pelham took away the top half of the county’s students alongside U.S. Highway 31, the Battle of 31 has become a game to mark on the calendar.

“It’s a very intense rivalry. I realized that the first year I coached here,” Thompson head coach Brian Maner said.

A first-half field goal by Steve Smitherman gave Thompson the series’ first win, 3-0, on Oct. 5, 1979. Since then, the Warriors have held off Pelham’s attempt to take over the series, holding on to a 15-14 series record. That alone creates good football.

“Both teams are going to play their hearts out. It’s an exciting week. It means a lot to a lot of people around here,” Pelham head coach Brett Burnette said.

This year’s quest for the coveted Game Ball trophy will be the 30th meeting between the two, when Thompson travels toPelham Oct. 3.

MONTEVALLO vs. CALERA

The third-largest rivalry in the county is separated by seven miles of highway down Alabama 25.

Just like most schools in the county, Montevallo’s largest rival was at one time Thompson High School, but over the past three decades, Calera has become the big rival and season opener.

“As far as flat out competition, pride and stuff on the line, I think our rivalry is as big as anybody’s,” Calera head coach Mac Thompson said.

Former Montevallo player, now team statistician, Ronnie Holsombeck believes the rivalry grew most in the 80s.

“Those guys were always the quickest, fastest guys we saw all year long,” said Holsombeck, who now teaches at both schools. He also teaches at Shelby County, where he plans to be next week before the Eagles and Bulldogs meet Aug. 29 to open the season.

SHELBY vs. CORNERSTONE

“You want to beat your friends,” said Cornerstone head coach Tim Smith.

The AISA battle used to be the Cotton Cup between Cornerstone and Coosa Valley, but with the hire of former Cornerstone assistant Shannon Jones as the head coach at Shelby Academy, the Battle of Friendly Foes is up and coming, meeting this year on Aug. 29.

“It’s probably been more of a Kingwood (rivalry) in the past (that’s been big), but now that I’m here, it seems to be more with Cornerstone,” Jones said.

REGION 6

Every game in Class 6A, Region 6 is a rivalry, leaving it hard to separate who dislikes who more among Oak Mountain, Pelham and Spain Park.