SIDELINE SCENE: Fans get game they want with WO-DP rivalry renewal
| 8:17 a.m. February 12, 2015
A few months before I was born, in the fall of 1987, West Orange and Dr. Phillips played each other in football for the first time.
Last weekend, we broke the story that — after a four-year hiatus from 2011 through 2014 — the Ole Orange Crate Game will return this fall.
Two of the top teams in the state in Class 8A will meet on Friday, Sept. 11, although the site of the first game of the home-and-home series has yet to be determined. One team will win and one team will lose, but I can already tell you who the real winner will be — the fans.
There are plenty of reasons why the area’s top schools don’t necessarily want to play one another during the regular season if they are not district opponents. One of the oldest sports sayings goes, “It’s hard to beat a good team twice.”
Just ask West Orange, which scored a program-defining win over Apopka in the regular season this past fall but then suffered a deflating blowout loss to the Blue Darters in the Class 8A Region 1 Semifinals.
But, at the same time, who can say no to the electric atmosphere that comes with authentic rivalry games between powerhouse programs?
Easily 5,000-plus spectators will pack either Bill Spoone Stadium or Raymond Screws Field this fall because, let’s face it, real rivalries can’t be manufactured. Specifically, real rivalries with some history are hard to come by — and by Central Florida standards, with its influx of new schools, a rivalry dating nearly three decades is pretty old.
Of course, there are other things to take away from this development beyond the fact that we’re going to be treated to an awesome football game. For one, it’s becoming harder for Central Florida’s truly elite programs — teams such as defending state champion Apopka, DP, WO, Lake Mary and Oak Ridge — to schedule games. As the heavyweights of the greater Orlando area continue to hang lopsided scores on opponents, more of the programs that are rebuilding or simply cannot compete are inclined to say, “No, thanks,” if a game is not mandated by district alignments.
Frankly, that’s understandable.
So these schools that, as mentioned earlier, would prefer not to schedule one another, may increasingly have to do so. Score that as a win for the fans.
Also, they may come to embrace doing so. For starters, there are the huge amounts of money to be made at the gate for games that are sellouts or near-sellouts for the home team.
Second, perhaps more importantly, there is the value of playing a tougher schedule come playoff time — a fact Apopka already knows. The Blue Darters lost four games in the regular season in 2014 but stood atop the Class 8A mountain when it was all said and done.
Dr. Phillips, which has made 10-0 regular seasons seem like an expectation, appears to be taking a starkly different approach this fall. The Panthers have scheduled a gauntlet of games that includes Lake Mary, West Orange, Apopka and Mainland (Daytona Beach).
A release on the school’s PantherZone website on Saturday said the tough slate was exactly how the coaching staff wanted it for the Panthers.
Well, that much we have in common. With West Orange playing DP and Apopka this fall, and DP playing darn near everyone, prep football fans may find themselves counting down the days until kickoff even earlier than usual this time around.