Unknown local rivalry may be best

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 12, 2000

When I moved to Natchez to assume the role of local sports editor, I was told time and again what great rivalry existed between Ferriday and Vidalia. People were also quick to point out what a tremendous match-up Trinity-Huntington was supposed to be.

Well, the Ferriday-Vidalia game was a total blow-out that ceased to be competitive – and interesting – early in the second half. The Saints-Hounds game was a relatively good one, but it was riddled with penalties, many of them for personal fouls as the match got ugly at the end.

It may have been an off-year for football rivalries, and maybe the relative lack of inter-Natchez sports gives a few games more hype than they deserve.

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But there is one football rivalry that was not mentioned once. Few people attended the games, which proved, by far, to be the most enjoyable of any I’ve mentioned in this column.

I mean football in its non-American form, and I’m talking about Thursday’s soccer games between Natchez High School and Cathedral’s boys and girls teams.

I’m not a soccer fan. That is primarily because I know little about the sport and one would be hard pressed to find someone less physically adept to play soccer than I.

But I still had a good time watching the games Thursday.

Part of it was that the fact that it was, in fact, a sport. I’m a guy, and guys like sports. That explains why I was up at 1 a.m. watching Battle Dome last night.

Another reason I had a good time was because I was watching history in the making. Natchez began its soccer program only last year, and with only a 6-year-old program itself, the Cathedral squad aren’t exactly grizzled veterans.

Although the teams were co-ed in the past, Thursday’s games were the first to feature separate boys and girls teams. The players were obviously excited, and that emotion seemed contagious.

But the absolute most fun aspect of the games was the rivalry between the teams. It was everything a cross-town rivalry should be.

There were no fights. Some good-natured jokes, perhaps, but there was all the aggression and malice of a backyard game of Frisbee.

Rabid fans did not scream obscenities or call for the teams to hurt each other. The majority of the fans were parents, and those parents seemed to know all the players on both teams.

The familiarity comes from the Natchez Youth Soccer League, in which I’d say 97 percent of the Natchez and Cathedral players competed with and against each other.

Many of the opponents Thursday played together all summer against their now-teammates. They had fun then, and they’re having fun now.

Which isn’t to say these aren’t varsity teams that are working hard and trying to win. It may be friendly, but it’s still a rivalry.

The teams split the decision Thursday, the Cathedral boys and the Natchez girls each taking a victory. That means both schools still have something to prove.

The teams will face each other three more times this year, and you can bet I’ll be there.

Nick Adams is sports editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 445-3632 or e-mailed at nick.adams@natchezdemocrat.com.