Radford and Pulaski Co. to face off in friendly rivalry
RADFORD — It’s not quite the David and Goliath story, or Duke versus North Carolina, but both Radford and Pulaski County residents have enjoyed a resurgence in their high school football rivalry game.
Dubbed as the “Battle of the Bridge,” Friday night’s game between the Radford Bobcats and Pulaski County Cougars will mark the fourth-straight year the teams have played the rivalry game.
Before the rivalry was renewed in 2009 — the last time the two teams had played was in 1979 — Pulaski County had defeated Radford 13-0.
Radford is classified by the VHSL as a Group A school, and Pulaski County is a Group AA school. This makes the rivalry even more interesting, said Radford Mayor Bruce Brown. The classifications are based on enrollment numbers, meaning Pulaski County is larger than Radford.
Since the rivalry was reinstated, Brown and Pulaski County Board of Supervisors Chairman Joe Sheffey have taken part in an annual “friendly wager” based on the result of the game.
The wager, Brown said, began a few years ago during a segment filmed by WDBJ7.
“This really got going a couple [of] years back when Natasha Ryan with WDBJ7 had a segment called ‘Friday Night Bites,’ where she profiled some local eating establishments that were known locally but may not be known outside the area,” Brown said. “The hope being the visiting team might find an off-the-main thoroughfare respite to eat prior to or after the game.”
In 2010, a segment of the show was filmed in Radford.
For the segment, Brown said he and Sheffey stood in front of the Lee Highway Bridge, talking trash, while wearing their respective team’s jerseys.
During the segment, at Taco Inn, the wager was established.
Brown said he and Sheffey decided the loser of the challenge would have to wear the opponent’s team jersey at the next board of supervisors or council meeting.
“[Sheffey] and I are long-term friends and colleagues having worked together at New River Community College for years, so it was natural for us to have some good-natured fun with this,” Brown said. “We had a trophy made up and branded this the ‘Battle of the Bridge.’ ”
Radford defeated Pulaski County 32‑29 in 2010, the first year of the wager, and Sheffey donned a black-and-gold Bobcats jersey at his next board of supervisors meeting. Last year, the Cougars fell short, 13-12, against the Bobcats, and Sheffey wore the jersey for the second time in two years.
Although Sheffey has been on the losing end of the wager, he still loves the “Battle of the Bridge” and what it means for both the Radford and Pulaski County communities.
“It helps with the economy and keeps both schools from having to travel a long distance to have a game,” Sheffey said. “It’s a good way for the communities to come together and have a good time.”
The Radford Chamber of Commerce has sponsored a police-escort caravan to escort the team from Radford to Pulaski on Friday, and both communities have made flags to place at the ends of the bridge.
Brown said he sees an even bigger future for the “Battle of the Bridge.” He hopes the game will be moved back to early September so the bridge can be closed down for a community tailgate. He said the date would have to be changed so it wouldn’t conflict with students moving in at Radford University.
He hopes to make the “Battle of the Bridge” a weeklong event and have respective police and sheriff’s offices compete against each other in a tug-of-war and fire-and-rescue teams in arm-wrestling. Brown hopes town merchants will continue to get behind their team by painting their windows and hanging flags.
But this year’s “Battle of the Bridge” is here, and both Brown and Sheffey are hoping to come out on top this year as the annual rivalry game victor.
“I’m hoping that [Brown] will be able to wear that beautiful Cougar jersey and hat,” Sheffey said.
Brown’s words were a little blunter.
“We have a great relationship with our friends and neighbors from Pulaski, but this is a heated rivalry with a colorful history that we are excited to have back on our schedule,” Brown said. “We fancy it as sort of a David and Goliath story and we have no intention of stopping it.
“The ‘Battle of the Bridge’ trophy stays in Bobcat territory.”
The Roanoke Times | 381-8627
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