The Valley and Lanett rivalry is done. What ended the nearly 100-year old local rivalry?

Published 2:06 pm Monday, March 11, 2024

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The Valley and Lanett rivalry started on the gridiron in 1939. Now, after nearly 100 hundred matchups, the rivalry is dead where it stands.

The decision was made public when the schools unveiled their 2024 football schedules.

The Rams and Panthers have faced off 92 times over the course of their history. Valley holds the edge with a 58-32 record in the series. 

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With the size difference between the two schools, Valley traditionally being a 5A or 6A and Lanett being a 2A, there have always been obstacles within the rivalry. Valley is set to consolidate with LaFayette in the coming years and become Chambers County High School, meaning it’s unlikely Valley and Lanett will ever meet on the football field again. 

“It’s something that I’ve been studying for years when I was there before,” Lanett coach Chip Seagle said. “We had that four-year run where we went 3-1 against them, but we had generational talent at quarterback with the Story boys and had a lot of complimentary talent around them. We weren’t your average 2A for about four years. After a while, it was like, you keep it on for the money. If we’re only playing it for the money, then what are we doing? When I found a comparable gate that was wanting to play on that date, I said ‘It’s done.”’

Seagle was hired before last season after longtime coach Clifford Story stepped down as head coach and continued as the school’s athletic director. At that point, the decision was now in Seagle’s hands, and he knew that Story would back whichever decision he made. 

With the Rams growing and continually changing, Seagle decided that it was time to move on, and he ultimately made the decision to take Valley off the schedule. 

“Coach Story told me it was my decision, and I take total responsibility for making it,” Seagle said. “They’re about to go up and be a solid 6A and stay in 6A instead of going back and forth like they have for the past 20 years or so. I did what I thought was best for our program, and I’ve been saying it for years. It was finally my turn to have the decision to make. I made it.”

Most people within both schools expected the rivalry to end at some point due to Valley and LaFayette’s consolidation, but the rivalry ending now did come as a surprise to Valley’s coaching staff. 

“I reached out to coach after our region meeting, and it’s been a game that’s been back on the schedule for the same week every year since coach Story was coaching,” Valley coach Adam Hunter said. “We’ve just kind of rolled with it. I reached out to coach Seagle just to check and see where he was at on it. That’s when he let me know that they had reached out and scheduled somebody else that week.” 

Hunter and the rest of Valley’s program had hoped to keep the rivalry intact at least until consolidation was complete because of the impact that the game has on the community and because of the money the game brings in each year. 

Valley and Lanett’s rivalry game had been one of the more profitable games for both schools each season. 

“That’s going to be a big one for us,” Hunter said. “It’s always been a really good gate for us. We usually have a good gate on the Lanett side and our side. It will have some impact on us. We look forward to hosting that game every other year because it is such a good gate. I think our community still got out and supported it very well. That’s going to hit us a little bit in the pocket, but we can do some things scheduling-wise. I think we can bring in some more games closer that can have an effect on our financials in a positive way.” 

When Valley and LaFayette combine, Lanett will also lose its rivalry with the Bulldogs. Lanett filled the gap from losing Valley by adding Beulah in place of the Rams. The Panthers have a rivalry with Handley, and they are building a rivalry with Bullock County. 

Adding Beulah gives Lanett a rival in a similar classification, with Beulah being in 3A, and it helps to fill some of the money lost from not playing Valley each year. 

“They’re like 15 minutes down the road, same color scheme. There’s all kinds of cool things,” Seagle said. “We used to play them a good bit. We were playing them when I got to Lanett. We’ve consistently done 7-on-7s with them. Principal Adam [Johnson] and coach [Matt] Johnson are doing a great job with that program. They got them to the playoffs in 3A. It just makes sense to reinitiate that rivalry, keep it going and maintain it. Maybe 100 years from now they’ll talk about that one the way they talk about the old one.” 

Valley on the other hand will be left with a rivalry size gap in its schedule. The Rams have a history of facing other teams like Beauregard and Handley, but Valley will have no rivalry game that matches up to the Lanett matchup as of now. 

“We play Beauregard pretty regularly now,” Hunter said. “That’s kind of grown a little bit. I wouldn’t say they’re our rival, but it’s grown. I don’t know if we’ll have another game like a Valley and Lanett game that’s going to be considered a rivalry game as big as it is. I think that was a game that our community looked at as a rivalry for so long. It’s going to be hard to kind of replace that.”

Rivalries bring in a lot of money for the participating schools, and they can bring a lot of school spirit. Ultimately, rivalries are more for the community and alumni than those involved in the product on the field. 

“I think it has a bigger effect on the older people,” Hunter said. “[With] this generation, it’s not as big as it used to be. I think it was great for our community to play the game. I thought it brought us together on the field. I think it means more to the people that have been invested in Valley and Lanett for a longer period of time than these kids.” 

“None,” Seagle said about his players’ reaction to not having the rivalry game. “Nobody said a word. A couple of them said ‘Y’all see the schedule? We’re not playing Valley.’ No backlash, nothing.”

The last matchup in the historic rivalry will go down in Valley’s favor as the Rams beat the Panthers 41-14 last season. The two teams have been bitter rivals for nearly a century, but ultimately the two programs have the ultimate respect for one another. 

“I thought Lanett played well the last four years against us,” Hunter said. “Coach Story did an excellent job with his program, and it was a really competitive game.”