Old rivalries reignited

Published 8:16 pm Saturday, August 9, 2014

There was a time when Peanut District contests defined the very essence of competitive high school sports in Hampton Roads. Friday nights were for cross-town football rivalries. Weeknights during the winter saw gymnasiums around Suffolk and the rest of Western Tidewater packed with fans supporting their respective teams.

It was a time of great school pride for a variety of Suffolk schools that no longer exist. Forest Glen, John F. Kennedy, John Yeates and Suffolk high schools have all been displaced by today’s King’s Fork, Lakeland and Nansemond River high schools. The old Suffolk schools have all been repurposed and exist in their former iterations only in the memories of their former students and faculty.

The new schools surely have their own sense of intra-city rivalry, and the larger student bodies ensure exuberant celebrations in the event of a win and dogged determination to avenge a defeat. But many who remember the old days of the Peanut District rivalries recognize a qualitative difference in the Suffolk rivalries.

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So it was with a sense of anticipation that hundreds of people turned out Friday night for a series of basketball games between alumni from those schools during the Peanut District Ol’ Skool Classic. Three games highlighted some of the best players from the old days. Matchups pitted Surry against Franklin, Forest Glen against Suffolk and John Yeates against John F. Kennedy.

Some of the players were in their 40s, but their age didn’t diminish the competitiveness, and most of the crowd stuck around until after the last game ended after 10:30 p.m.

Lakeland High School coach Clint Wright looks to have hit upon a great idea for a fundraiser with the Ol’ Skool Classic. The event raised about $2,200 for his school’s boys’ basketball program.

It might be hard to replicate that success for many years in the future, as it’s hard to imagine large crowds turning out to watch a bunch of 60-year-olds struggling to hurry up the court. But for a night, it was nice to see the old rivalries come back to life.