Having once been a head football coach at Show Low High School, I know all too well the rivalry that has long existed between Blue Ridge and SLHS.
The two schools are located just miles the apart, and the players run into one another at fast food joints, the theater and on the streets.
Like all tightly wound teenage athletes, they want to own bragging rights when they come across one of their rivals.
Years ago, I was accused by the then Blue Ridge head coach of contributing to the rivalry and the distrust.
He wrote to the SLHS administration and me a wicked letter saying I had deliberately done things during the practice week leading up to the Cougar vs. Blue Ridge season-opening game that incited BR players, boosters and alumni.
I didn’t agree with his accusation and after several heated exchanges we both went our own ways and on to have fine seasons.
But knowing what I do about the rivalry, nothing between the two schools and their football teams surprises me.
The most recent incident that has turned the White Mountains into a hot bed of unrest, involves SLHS officials suggesting to the Arizona Interscholastic Association that a Blue Ridge assistant, Danny Hawkins, who was the former head coach at Show Low, was recruiting last season’s 2A Player of the Year Jordan Morgan.
of the Year Jordan Morgan.
The accusations were made public months ago, and turned over to the AIA for investigation.
On Sept. 16 in Phoenix, the AIA executive board ruled that BRHS did not recruit Morgan, clearing him to play for the Yellow Jackets.
By all accounts the AIA meeting was emotionally charged with Morgan, his parents Bill and Carla, SLHS athletic director Nathan Richardson, Hawkins, and three Show Low football players in attendance.
According to reports, Hawkins, Bill Morgan and Carla Morgan gave emotional speeches and tears were shed.
Show Low contended that Jordan Morgan and Hawkins exchanged text messages around Memorial Day. In them, allegations were, Morgan was urged to attend BRHS weight training sessions.
Richardson said he learned of the text messages from the three Show Low players who told him Jordan Morgan admitted to them during a conversation between the four.
At the meeting, Jordan Morgan said he did not know what the Show Low players were referring to.
The AIA executive board apparently didn’t believe there was any credence to the accusations of recruiting, and cleared Jordan Morgan to play last Friday evening against Alchesay.
With the incident at an end, officially at least, BRHS and SLHS officials now express their concerns about what could occur Oct. 22 when the two rivals clash.
Their worries are obvious because they recognize there is plenty of tension, apprehension and unrest in the two White Mountain towns.
That’s long been the case around rivalry time, but this season it might be even worse due to the seriousness of the allegations of recruiting.
Those charges, if found true, could have done major damage to the storied BRHS football program.
And you can bet the family farm, there are plenty of Show Low townspeople who continue to believe Morgan was recruited by BRHS coaches, despite the AIA ruling.
Here’s hoping the dust settles before the big showdown allowing players, parents and alumni to enjoy an evening of old-fashioned, hard-nosed football without any broils, brawls or hostility — on or off the field.