Loudon vs. Lenoir City
In Loudon County, there's a high school football rivalry that takes place 365 days a year. The match up between Lenoir City High School and Loudon High School marks the second oldest rivalry in the state.
The 88-year-old feud is known as the Battle of the Bridge.
Watch this Friday on Channel 10 and WBIR.com as the town teams battle it out for the bragging rights of the year. The pregame show begins at 7 p.m. with kickoff at 7:30. You won't want to miss it.
There isn't much that separates Loudon and Lenoir City, geographically speaking, except the bridge across the Tennessee River. But every year there's a battle for bragging rights of the bridge. It starts on the football field, but by no means ends there.
"I know others have a hard time just saying the "L" word ," said Jeff Cortez, in his first season as the Lenoir High School head football coach.
"When that game starts, it's 'we're going to win at all costs' and afterwards you shake hands and you go on. But there are some people in the community who won't even say the words Lenoir City," said Loudon High School Head Football Coach of 13 years, Jeff Harig.
This Friday, August 29th, will be the 88th time the teams have played. Over the years, the spirit of the rivalry has only grown deeper.
"The two teams started playing in 1923. That was Loudon's first year of football," said Bill Brakebill, Loudon County teacher of 29 years and the team's videographer. "We've played every year since with the exception of about five years back in the '40s the rivalry got a little bit out of hand."
"Part of the rivalry was, what prank can you pull on the other school?" said Harig. "We had a lot of stadium damage, one year they poured detergent in the fountain."
The pranks and vandalism got to be too much even for the students in the '90s.
"The student councils of the two schools got together in the spring of '95. We wanted to do something that would take their minds off of that and put it on something else," Brakebill said.
They decided to channel their intensity toward a good cause and named it the Battle of the Bridge. It began a challenge to see who could collect the most canned food for the local charity Good Samaritan Center.
"The food and the money brought into the Good Samaritan Center makes up 35-40% of the food they distribute for the whole year," said Greg Boling, assistant principal and athletic director at Lenoir City High School.
But helping out their neighbor is about the only thing the two rivals plan on doing together.
Whoever owns this bridge owns the year.
"People will say, 'I don't care if you go 1-9 as long as you win that game.' It rivals all the big rivals in college football that we know of: Alabama vs. Auburn, Alabama vs. Tennessee, Ohio State vs. Michigan. If you win that one game it gives you bragging rights the whole year," said Harig.
Adjectives like "fierce" and "heated" describe the nine-decades long "Battle of the Bridge" football game in Loudon County between Lenoir City and Loudon high schools. However, there's another competition currently going on between these two schools, one that will benefit a local charity.
"The real winners are the hungry families in Loudon County," said Karen Bowdle with the Good Samaritan Center of Loudon County. The nonprofit helps thousands of people with food assistance.
"Between 35 to 40 percent of all the food that we collect for our on-site pantry comes from this Battle of the Bridge competition," Bowdle added.
In the last eight years, the drive has raised more than 57 tons of food, all donated by the 2,100 students from the combined two schools. They also raised more than $210,000 in monetary donations for the Good Samaritan Center.
"Each student raised enough food and donated enough food to us to feed a family for a week," Eddy Shubert, the pantry manager added.
Since 2001, Loudon High School has been the winner nine times since 2001. Lenoir City won four times.
Take it from Loudon County residents Santiago and Kristi Correa-- they are a match made in heaven. They are both Spanish teachers in local high schools, they both share a love for sports, and absolutely adore their four children.
But, there is one little conflict of interest: the Battle of the Bridge.
"They dress up, they paint their face, they yell, they cheer."
That's how Santiago Correa describes the rivalry between Lenoir City and Loudon County High Schools. His wife, Kristi, agrees. She said it isn't based on one night or one game. It's a 24 hour, 7 days a week kind of thing.
"Kids are very competitive around here," she said. "This is my 6th year at Loudon and I've never seen anything like it before."
Through her six years as a Spanish teacher at Loudon, Kristi said she has grown to love the school, its passion, and the rivalry that goes with it.
"I love Loudon. We live here. My kids go here," she explained. "I am 100 percent Redskin all the way."
But for Santiago, he bleeds orange and black.
"When we don't play each other, I go to her games and she comes to our games," he said. "But when it comes to the rivalry, it's like you stay away from me during that day."
The Correa's said home life is full of trash talk and teasing. When they are at the game they sit on opposite sides of the stadium.
"We have two boys and two girls and our boys kind of tend to go toward their dad," Kristi Correa said. "The girls tend to stick with mom. So it's definitely a house divided."
Excitement for Friday continues to build in Loudon County and it's no different in the Correa household.
"We are getting excited for the big day and Friday," Kristi Correa said. "My kids are excited to get dressed up and go to the big game and stuff."
Santiago agreed and chuckled, "I think we're going to win."