There are several ingredients that comprise a great football rivalry.
Number one, a great rivalry usually exists between teams that are located in close proximity to one another – usually from the same home town.
Secondly, a football rivalry that gets folks seeing red usually happens when it involves two teams that can make their season by defeating the other. After all, bragging rights for an entire year is nothing to sneeze about. Nothing feels better than knocking off another school in your home town.
That brings us to Somerset High School, Pulaski County High School, and Southwestern High School.
All three of our local schools are very competitive against one another across the board in almost every sport, and there’s no denying that all three love to beat up on the other, regardless of the sport.
Then, there’s football, where there is a very healthy hatred among all three teams, making for some outstanding football rivalries that give fans something to talk about all week leading up to the game, and of course all the trash talking that comes afterwards from both sides.
Yes, a lot of the guys on all three squads may indeed be friends off the gridiron and outside of football, but make no mistake about it, one Friday night each year they love to bust each other in the mouth when wearing their school’s colors very proudly across their collective chests.
However, in the midst of a tragic event, football should and has taken a back seat in 2012 to something much, much more important than the final numbers on a scoreboard on a late Friday evening.
This season, while winning football games is still of the utmost importance, the football teams in our community have displayed brotherly love and a genuine caring for their neighbor as a result of a tragedy that occurred one month ago.
Way back on October 4 – one month to the day to be exact – Somerset football players Will Hinton and Jacobi Gilmore were involved in a horrific automobile accident, involving the car they were in as it collided with a semi tractor trailer on Ky. 80 at the entrance of Meece Middle School.
The very next night, the Briar Jumpers – playing for their injured teammates who were both at the University of Kentucky Medical Center with several injuries sustained in the accident – went out and blew out arch-rival Danville on the Admirals home turf by a final score of 24-7.
That same night, while Somerset was taking care of Danville, Pulaski County upended Madison Southern in Berea 37-36 on a night when the Maroons wore a purple patch on the back of their helmets to honor Hinton and Gilmore.
In London that same night, Southwestern’s football team wore purple wrist bands to honor the two Somerset players in their game at North Laurel High School.
In short, the community – led by teenage football players – came together united as one, displaying the kind of sensitivity and sportsmanship that we wish we could see at every sporting event on every night.
Last week, Pulaski County and Southwestern’s football teams went an even step beyond wearing purple, as both schools still haven’t forgotten about Hinton and Gilmore, and what the Somerset football team is still dealing with one month later.
Last Thursday – one day before Pulaski County and Southwestern were to play against Warren Central and Christian County in the annual Don Marshall Bowl – head coaches Johnny Hines and Andy Stephens, along with several Maroon and Warrior football players, surprisingly showed up at the end of Somerset’s football practice with one more act of kindness in letting the folks at Somerset know they are still supporting the Briar Jumpers, as Somerset continues its path toward a Class 2A state title.
The Pulaski County and Southwestern football teams donated money to the Hinton and Gilmore families to help with the medical costs and recovery associated with the injuries they each sustained and are still dealing with today.
That gesture last week certainly put things into their proper place -- winning football games is not always the most important thing when it comes to the biggest game of all – the game of life.
“I think the word that I would use is perspective,” stated Somerset head coach Robbie Lucas.
“This whole thing has put everything in its proper perspective,” Lucas added. “For me, whether it’s football, whether it’s my life, whether it’s my relationship with those kids, I think perspective is probably the proper word. I’m very humbled about the fact that the county would think enough about our kids and their families to do what they did. It’s a bitter rivalry with both PC and Southwestern, and it always will be and I don’t see that changing any time soon. But, there are certain things that happen in life where all three sides can put aside all the stuff that happens between the lines.”
As for the coach of the Pulaski County Maroons – Johnny Hines – agreed with Lucas that nothing will change when it comes to PC’s rivalry against the Briar Jumpers.
Hines says his team will always want to get after Somerset on the gridiron and will want nothing more than to get a hard-earned victory over the Briar Jumpers, but in life – and what transpired a month ago to Will Hinton and Jacobi Gilmore and the horrible accident they each survived – even football takes a back seat to real life.
“On the field everybody’s intense and you want to beat those other local schools and it’s always going to be a big rivalry,” pointed out the Pulaski county head coach.
“When something like this happens, it really does put everything in perspective,” continued Hines. “You hate to see kids get hurt in football and you certainly hate to see them get hurt in an accident. I’m just glad as far as we know that they (Hinton and Gilmore) are both going to make a full recovery and they are both going to be OK.”
Next year – thanks to Somerset becoming a part of the Don Marshall Bowl beginning in 2013, the Maroons, Warriors, and Briar Jumpers will all play each other in search of attaining bragging rights by beating their arch rivals.
However, in the face of the tragedy that was the injuries to Will Hinton and Jacobi Gilmore and that awful crash a month ago, it is nice to know that in ‘real life situations’, our local football teams live by the motto, ‘All for one and one for all’.