August 23, 2010 6:59:00 PM
The timing was perfect.
On Thursday, Lowndes County Schools Superintendent Mike Halford was at New Hope High School to catch some of the action between the Columbus and New Hope High School slow-pitch softball teams.
Softball is one of the few sports that the two Lowndes County schools compete against each other. In the past few years, the schools haven''t played each other in football and boys basketball due to problems that fans attending the matchups might have created.
If things work out today, that oversight should be corrected when the Columbus-New Hope football game at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 10 at New Hope is finalized. The opportunity to play the game came about when the West Point High School football team was forced to cancel one of the 12 games on its schedule. The school apparently thought it had received permission from the state''s governing body of public high school athletics to play one more game than the state-mandated maximum of 11, but the MHSAA didn''t recognize the school had 12 games on its schedule, or it changed its mind.
West Point will travel Thursday morning to Daytona Beach, Fla., to prepare for its game Friday against Mainland (Fla.) High in the Gridiron Challenge.
Columbus and New Hope worked together Thursday and Friday after learning about West Point High''s predicament and made something good come out of it.
Everyone should tip a hat to all of the parties involved for addressing the situation positively. West Point will get to play a game Friday that it has invested more than $20,000 in, while Columbus and New Hope will get a chance to renew a rivalry that went dormant following the 2008 season.
Would the football game still be on the verge of happening if Halford hadn''t been at the Columbus-New Hope slow-pitch softball game? Probably. He likely already had received a call from Columbus Municipal School District Superintendent Dr. Del Phillips, and they had started working out the details to play the football game.
But the Columbus-New Hope slow-pitch softball game likely reminded Halford of the benefits the rivalry brings. Other than football, boys basketball, and baseball, the group of fans on the Columbus High side was one of the biggest to see a school sports event in recent memory. That is another positive sign. It points to growth in a program that continues to build itself into a competitor. Games against New Hope, the defending Class 5A state champion, can only help Columbus improve.
Matchups against Columbus also benefit New Hope. The financial rewards from the sports teams competing against each other is just one of the positives. The proximity of the schools adds to the motivation the athletes face to win bragging rights in their community.
Halford undoubtedly saw the excitement of the fans at the game and the improved play from Columbus High slow-pitch softball team. He also watched as New Hope took what it hopes are its first steps to winning a fourth state title in a row.
That excitement will be magnified Sept. 10, and it should be allowed to happen later this year in basketball season. Arrangements should be made to renew the rivalries in both sports as soon as possible to keep the momentum going.
Let''s not stop there. Let''s get all of the Lowndes County schools -- public and private -- together and organize a two-day basketball tournament, then a baseball event, and then a softball tournament. The games could be rotated between host schools and would help to bring everyone together. Not only would the events save money on travel, but they also would help the area schools generate even more excitement about their sports teams.
Halford saw that fact Thursday. Let''s hope it serves to remind him that the local schools can come together without incident and shine on the playing field for everyone to see. Let''s hope that all of the sports get a chance to do the same thing for years to come.
Adam Minichino is sports editor of The Dispatch. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.