Keep the school rivalry alive

Published 12:30 pm Tuesday, October 4, 2011

As a graduate of Pelham High School, I can definitely understand the significance of the Panthers’ football game against Thompson High School coming up on Oct. 7.

No matter the teams’ records, when the Warriors and Panthers take the field against each other every year, the atmosphere is overshadowed only by the Iron Bowl.

If you’ve ever been to a Battle for U.S. 31 game, you know what I mean.

As a former member of the PHS band, I can remember getting nervous about the Thompson game weeks before our team played theirs. Because I had many friends who attended THS back then, a loss to the Warriors surely meant I would be hearing about it from them for months to come.

With the exception of a few years here and there, the score of that game has been extremely close over the past few decades.

But there could be some changes coming to the rivalry, as Helena is moving forward with its new high school.

Once the Helena high school is opened, it will cut the PHS enrollment in half.

Earlier this week, Shelby County Schools Superintendent Randy Fuller told me both Pelham and Helena could be competing in Class 5A after the split. Of course, that’s assuming the number of kids in each community stays about the same for the next two years.

Because Thompson and Pelham both compete in Class 6A now, the PHS-Helena split could put the Panthers and Warriors in different classifications. I would hate to see the change affect the annual contest for the Game Ball trophy, which has been passed between Pelham and Thompson for decades.

The good news is that PHS and THS have been in different classes before.

In 1996-97 and in 2002-03, Thompson dropped to Class 5A while Pelham remained in 6A, and the teams continued to play each other every year.

If history is any indication, the rivalry should survive any classification changes. It sure would be a shame if it didn’t.

Neal Wagner is the city editor for the Shelby County Reporter. He can be reached at 669-3131 ext. 17 or by email at