Texas' Top Ten High School Rivalries: Longview vs. Marshall
By Travis Stewart, DCTF Staff Writer
LONGVIEW vs. MARSHALLNo matter which way you slice the bread, the rivalry between Longview and Marshall perfectly typifies Texas football.
It's a big-time game in a small-time setting. It's way out in east Texas, where the heat feels hotter than hot, where the football stands would be full on Fridays if the varsity was scrimmaging the robotics club and where the curious come from far and wide to see some of the best players and teams in the whole state. It's spitting distance from the Texas/Louisiana border, the former of which is the best talent producer in the country and latter of which gave us 5-star RB Joe McKnight in 2006.
Heck, Maxim Magazine -- the country's ultimate Man-azine -- says it's the 14th-best rivalry in all of sports. Not east Texas, not all of Texas, not even the country -- the world. Convinced yet?
Like you've read in previous installments, some rivalries have long histories, some have terrific games, some have famous alumni and others are just plain over hyped. But Longview versus Marshall? After you play as many times as these two have over the last 99 years, it's pretty much the stuff of legend.
"Anytime you play 97 times, there's going to be some bad blood," said Jack Stallard, sports editor of the Longview News-Journal. "Part of it is, it's Texas. When you look at it nationally, people recognize it because it's Texas. When you think football, you think Texas, and when you think Texas football, you think this game."
In a way, Longview versus Marshall has actually come to define the community. If you met a guy from Marshall high school, what would be the first thing to come to mind? It would either be A) one of the school's famous football-playing alumni (Y.A. Tittle, anyone?) or B) this very game.
"They're two very tight knit communities that are very dedicated to their respective programs," said Marshall coach Thedrick Harris. "It's been generation after generation of going against each other -- long before I got here. It's become sort of a fixture of high school football in this area. Everyone loves to come out to that game."
And they do -- in droves.
"Especially in east Texas, it's well, well known," Harris said. "People come to the game. I know people that have migrated to Dallas, that have migrated to Houston, that have gone all over the state, and a lot of those poeple come back home for the game."
Those city-residents are interesting studies, too. A Longview or Marshall native that has since relocated will never forget the feel of those two communities on the eve of the big game. They'll never forget the 1998 season, when Marshall walked right into Longview's stadium -- No. 1 ranked Longview, mind you -- and upset the giants in double overtime. No, it's a part of you if you grew up out there. But if you grew up in the big city, well, you just don't know what you're missing.
"It's because out in this area, it's more town versus town," Harris said. "It's a community versus another community. There's so much to do in those big cities -- like your Dallas and your Houston -- that football is big, but there's still millions of other things to do. In east Texas, for Friday night football the town closes. That's what makes it a little bit different."
Interestingly, if this research had been done a few years ago, it could have been Port Neches-Groves versus Nederland or Odessa Permian versus Midland Lee in the top spot instead of Longview and Marshall: the two were not only in different districts but different classes, meaning what was once a rivalry fueled by playoff implications had been reduced to little more than a Week 2 extravaganza placed two months away from the postseason. But Longview's drop to 4A in the 2008 realignment has reunited the two in what could be one of the most difficult districts in football.
"In the last few years, it had kind of tapered off a little bit," said Longview coach John King. "We first got here in 2000 and we were in a district together. When we got out of the district there was less of the animosity."
And now things have changed.
"I think (the redistricting) will actually spark more interest and heat it back up," said Stallard. "They've played to start the season and that's always drawn a lot of interest. Now it could come down to Week 8 or 9 -- one of these teams get a chance to knock the other one out of the playoffs, to have that game mean something. That's a really big deal."
But the more you turn up the heat, the more the blood starts to boil -- could this game be on the fast track back to it's acrimonious past?
"In the old days it was as nasty as any rivalry ever," Stallard said. "There's stories of vandalizing city limit signs, hedges that spell out Loboes, a dead wolf being put on the Longview tennis courts. It was as nasty and as heated as any. The emotion is still there, and you'll find enough people that just flat out hate Longview or hate Marshall and wouldn't pull for either of them."
Then again, the particularly nasty rivalries are more often than not closely tied in with how the two communities view each other more than the schools' history; if School A hates school B, for example, that's hardly as crucial as School A's parents hating School B's parents. Coach Harris said that's not really a factor here.
"I think ours is more of a strictly sports rivalry," Harris said. "I think the people in the community respect each other, as far as I know. I haven't seen any bad blood. It's always been cordial. ... I think for us, most (residents of both cities) are pretty much the same. As far as the makeup, that's where your bad blood rivalries start. If you have one community that's more affluent, that's when the other starts thinking, 'Well, they think they're better than us.'"
On the contrary, this matchup is just one you should sit back and enjoy.
"If you get a chance to watch a football game not involving your kids," Stallard said. "this is one that'd be fun to see."