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Keeler: Rivalries do not get better than this

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Tommy Keeler


This is what everyone in the area had hoped for and wanted at the beginning of the season.

The final week of the regular season has never meant so much to area fans, especially in Warren and Shenandoah Counties. Tonight Strasburg plays at Central at 7:30 p.m., and Skyline plays at Warren County at 7 p.m.

Two of the biggest rivalries in the area and there is a whole lot on the line for everyone.
There's also plenty at stake for Sherando as they travel to face Millbrook. The two teams are fourth and fifth in the power ratings, whoever wins will assure themselves of a home game, while the loser will travel in the first round of the playoffs. Stonewall Jackson also has a big game at Wilson Memorial. The Generals need to win to make the playoffs.

However, there's no question the biggest games are taking place in Woodstock and Front Royal.

When Central moved back to the Bull Run District last year, Central coach Mike Yew told me it would be great if the game between the two teams at the end of the year meant something really important. Yew has gotten his wish two straight years.

Last year the Falcons needed a win to win the district outright, while Strasburg had a chance to claim a share of the title with a win. The Falcons rallied in the fourth quarter, and then won the game 27-26 in double overtime.

This year the roles are reversed, and there's even more at stake. Strasburg heads into the game 9-0 trying for a perfect regular season. The Rams will win the district outright with a win, if the Falcons win they will gain a share of the title. A Central win and a Manassas Park win would create a three-way tie for the title.

Perhaps more importantly, the Strasburg-Central game will have a big impact on the seedings for the playoffs. Both teams have already assured themselves a home game in the first round. A win by either team would guarantee that they would have home field for at least two playoff games.

Currently, Strasburg is in fourth in the power ratings, while Central is in fifth.

The Strasburg-Central rivalry has always been intense in every sport, but it hasn't always produced close, dramatic football games. Last year's game was the best one that I can remember, and I think this year's may be even better.

The Skyline-Warren County rivalry is a new one, but certainly one that's as intense as any. The Wildcats have had the Hawks' number over the years, but this is a different Skyline team than in the past.

Both teams have one loss, each coming to Kettle Run. The Hawks won the Northwestern District title outright, while the Wildcats will get a share of the Evergreen title.

When Warren County was moved to the Evergreen District I remember Warren County athletic director Jim Grooms and current Warren County Public Schools Director of Personnel Buck Smith telling me that they thought it would be great for both schools in the county to have a chance to win a title at the same time. Now it has happened and there's a chance they could meet again in the playoffs. Things can't get much better for football in Front Royal.

Skyline is currently in second in the power ratings, while Warren County is fourth. A win could give the Hawks the top seed in the region, but a win by the Wildcats could vault them into the second spot.

The Skyline-Warren County games have went right down to the wire the last couple years, and I expect more of the same when they meet on Friday.

The success of Central, Skyline, Strasburg and Warren County couldn't have come at a better time. Next year there will be six classifications and everything changes. Central and Strasburg will be in the same district, but will be in separate classes. Skyline and Warren County will be in the same class, but in different districts with the Wildcats moving to the Bull Run.

The rivalries will still be strong, but they may not mean quite as much.

So, everyone should really enjoy tonight's games -- take them in and savor how meaningful and exciting they are. There's no guarantees this area will see games this big at the end of the regular season for many years to come.

Contact assistant sports editor Tommy Keeler Jr. at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com






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