Odessa’s Ratliff Stadium is home to the Permian Panthers, whose rivalry with Midland Lee began in the early 1960s. Photo by J. Griffis Smith

Rivalry and football go together in Texas like cowboy boots and belt buckles. Long Creek High better get ready.

Earlier this year New Braunfels ISD broke ground on the site of the new school, with the goal of opening its doors to sophomores for the 2024-25 academic year. It will be a while longer before the football program takes shape, but you can bet there’s one school that will have Long Creek circled on its calendar.

For the past 170 years New Braunfels hasn’t just been the only game in town. It’s been the only high school. With the explosive growth in San Antonio spilling northeast and turning what was once the home of German kitsch into a bedroom community that rates among the country’s fastest-growing cities (from 57,740 in 2010 to an estimated 116,000 in 2023), the decision was made to open a second high school. Being the new kid on the block with fancy new digs saddles Long Creek with a double stigma. But the thing that might well wind up really heating up tensions is Long Creek’s mascot—the Dragon. It’s a bold choice in a town where the Unicorn has long reigned supreme

All of which is to say: This is a great inciting incident for a high school football rivalry. Whether Long Creek-New Braunfels High evolves into a clash for the ages will depend on the history, athletes, and games they build up together. Texas sure has seen some truly mythic matchups over the years, and with high schools currently vying for state championships, take a moment to look back at some of the great ones.

Odessa Permian vs. Midland Lee

“Generally speaking, there was a district championship at stake, a playoff berth at stake—and then of course in the playoffs, the right to advance was at stake,” former Permian coach John Wilkins said in a television interview about the rivalry with Midland that dates back to the early 1960s. In other words, when these teams meet, there’s usually a lot at stake. And while Permian holds a near 2-1 victory edge against Lee, “The mystique surrounding that game,” said ex-Lee coach John Parchman in same TV interview, “is still there” because this West Texas clash is Friday Night Lights, the high school football rivalry that literally defines all others. Notable star(s): WR Roy Williams (Permian), RB Cendric Benson (Midland) 

Denison vs. Sherman

Billed as the Battle of the Ax, this Red River rivalry got its name from the sharp trophy that used to be handed out to the winning team—an odd choice given this game’s habit for stirring up fights and vandalism. And in this rivalry—one of the country’s oldest, in fact, going back to 1901—it’s Sherman that has come out ahead more often than not (the win-loss record is 68–48–8), and those bragging rights cut both ways. Notable star(s): P Hunter Smith (Sherman)

Tyler High vs. Tyler Legacy

Confined to Loop 323, the Rose City Rivalry begins a lot like the budding rivalry in New Braunfels—with Legacy arriving on the scene five years before Tyler High opened its doors. For most of this rivalry’s 65-year history, the two schools were locked in the same conference, winning a combined four state titles—with Tyler High taking three. But these days it’s the work that the schools do to feed hungry East Texans through its annual Pantry Raid that really makes this rivalry special. Notable stars: RB Earl Campbell (Tyler), QB Matt Flynn (Legacy)

Little River-Academy vs. Rogers

The rivalry between these small Central Texas schools dates to the Great Depression. And while Rogers, about 12 miles away, holds a decisive edge that includes a 24-game winning streak that spanned from 1967 through 1990, Little River has fought back in recent years. State football oracle Dave Campbell says there’s no love lost here, which seems about right for a clash pitting Bumblebees (Little River) against Eagles (Rogers). Notable star(s): N/A

Amarillo vs. Amarillo Palo Duro

This Bomb City rivalry is the oldest in town, dating to the late-’50s. And with that much history in such a remote town, it should be no surprise that many who compete wind up switching sides at some point. At the rivalry’s peak, the game was played on a Saturday—you know, college football’s turf. But even as Amarillo has maintained the upper hand as Palo Duro dropped down in enrollment, it hasn’t made the stakes any less worth playing for. Notable star(s): DL Ziggy Hood, LB William Thomas (Palo Duro)

New Braunfels vs. Seguin

You don’t hang around town for 170 years without finding someone to spar with, and New Braunfels has been more than happy to make the half-hour trip south down State Highway 46 to go toe-to-toe with Seguin. This rivalry’s so big that every year the mayors of New Braunfels and Seguin put their famous sausage and pecan reserves on the line in hopes of winning big. And while Seguin held the advantage for a while, winning 14 straight between 1964 and ’77, this has turned into a showcase for New Braunfels, which has shut out Seguin more than 20 times in the series. “When you have schools and towns as old as ours,” New Braunfels coach Chuck Caniford told the San Antonio Express-News in 2013, “you’re bound to have rivalry and tradition. Every superhero needs a villain.” Notable star(s): OL Geoff Hangartner (New Braunfels), P Russell Erxleben (Seguin)

You hear that, Long Creek: This thing you’re joining isn’t so much a rivalry as it is a gridiron epic. Time will tell which part the Dragons get to play. But one thing is for sure, when they do finally take the field, the pressure will be on to slay or be slain.

 

The March 2024 cover of Texas Highways Magazine

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