Friday night’s football game between the Science Hill Hilltoppers and the Dobyns-Bennett Indians began with many friendly gestures.
As the Science Hill cheerleaders were warming up, D-B cheerleaders walked to the opposing side to hand out candied apple treats for their fellow sisters of spirit.
The sportsmanship continued as the D-B band welcomed the ’Topper band to play with them during the national anthem, which produced a massive sound followed by applause from both sides of the field.
By 7:20 p.m. the stands were packed and at every fence around the field fans claimed their spot.
On both sides of the field, there were parents anxiously waiting for the game to start, players down on the turf looking up into the stands and students sporting their school’s colors.
Sitting casually on a bench on the sideline was Anthony Head, who was watching the ’Toppers run drills before the game started and seemed to be focusing on their every move.
Head, an injured offensive and defensive lineman for SHHS, said that while it was painful to not be out there with his friends playing, his support for his team has never wavered.
“I stay positive for my teammates. I’ve got to be there to cheer them on. I’m here for them,” he said.
Head said from day one, each game and each win had brought the team to their ultimate competition –– Dobyns-Bennett.
“This whole season has been building up to this point. We’ve been focusing on this game since week one, so this is really the climax for our season right now. We’re at the top of our game and it’s time to show it,” Head said. “(The coaches) try to treat it like every other game, but, of course, it’s not like every other game.”
He said the team’s 9-0 season so far has already been a tremendous accomplishment and even though he didn’t suit up Friday, Head said he was happy to play a different role.
“I’ve got their back,” he said. “I’m a cheerleader tonight.”
On the other side of the field, D-B assistant track coach and school alumnus William Johnson said the excitement for the game had been building for a while.
“It’s been a buzz all week long. It’s all everybody’s talking about –– Dobyns-Bennett, Science Hill, Friday night,” he said.
Leaning into a fence, Johnson said the atmosphere definitely reflected the hype of the week and the intense rivalry between the two schools.
“It is an electric atmosphere. It’s the kind of atmosphere that Dobyns-Bennett and Science Hill have every year,” he said. “They’ve had battles for as long as when I went to Dobyns-Bennett.”
Jackie Isbell, mother of SHHS football player Tate Isbell and an SHHS alumna, said the game was definitely a big one.
“There’s a lot at stake, of course, being they’re undefeated, we’re undefeated. We haven’t beat them in forever,” she said, referring to Science Hill’s 18 consecutive losses to D-B. “We really want to win and they really want to keep beating us.”
She said the team as a whole is one big family and their support for each other has unified the crowd.
“It’s just fun to see everybody come out and support two teams that are just right here in our little area with this great record,” Isbell said. “My heart is pounding. I am so excited I can’t stand it. It’s just a lot of fun. It takes me back to the day. I almost hate to see it end.”
For fans, parents and players, the excitement continued as the undefeated teams battled throughout the entire game. But when it was over, D-B’s streak was still intact and Science Hill’s thirst to overturn Dobyns-Bennett’s dominance in football would have to wait until next year. The Indians won 37-34 on a last-minute field goal.