Long live the Pioneer (from last weeks issue of KnoxFocus.com)
my favorite week of the high school football season. This Friday night my alma
mater will travel north up
are changing in
plans for a new high school surfaced several years ago and after considerable
debate, ground was broken for the new facility along 11W between Rutledge and
Bean Station. It was a necessary move.
The original thoughts of the
county fathers were to close Washburn and build one big new high school. They
would call it Grainger. A nickname would eventually follow – the Grizzlies.
Grainger Grizzlies. Kind of has a mountain ring to it. Of course there are no
Grizzly Bears east of
So Washburn is staying open, at
least for now. Following that decision a new debate arose over the name – and
nickname – of the new high school. I mean if Washburn is staying open, why not
call the new school Rutledge? It seemed like a sensible idea. You’d have
thought. Now you might think an outsider from northeast
I love high school sports. They represent the purest form of amateur athletics. And not only do they involve loyalties that are close to home, but we also know the players. I mean we really know them. Not just their names, but their families, their brothers and sisters, where they go to church, who their girlfriend or boyfriend is.
High school sports are truly home
to us. And for me,
working people. I don’t mean to
stereotype, but in my experience with
Older Gibbs fans might remember the name George Blankenship. A versatile athlete with lethal quickness, Blankenship led the Pioneers to a one point, come from behind victory over Gibbs in 1969. My dad, an assistant on Ken Sparks’ Gibbs staff, often tells about closing his eyes in the press box as Blankenship carried a two point conversion in to beat the Eagles. He couldn’t watch the inevitable.
having a hard time myself. It is almost unthinkable to me that Gibbs and
Rutledge will never meet on the football field again. Not to mention the
basketball court or the baseball diamond. The football series has been the most
competitive and evenly contested of any in Gibbs history. This Friday will be
the final time that both communities actually gather to watch the Eagles and
Pioneers do battle. Or so it seems.
I suppose by calling the school Rutledge they would have offended all the good taxpayers in Bean Station. Let’s see, what are those people called again?
Umm….oh yeah….Rutledge graduates.
As for me, I guess I’ll just hold on to the many memories I have from my favorite series. I’ll never be able to forget being dominated by Ralph Adams’ Rutledge teams of the early 80s, and how Gibbs turned that around in the late 80s and early 90s. I’ll remember Todd Atkins’ amazing hurdle of a Pioneer defender in 1995, giving Gibbs a 7-6 victory. I’ll sure never forget Derek Cole nailing not one but two 41-yard field goals in the final seconds last year to give the Eagles an improbable win.
Those are but a scant few of the countless memories I have of games against Rutledge. Maybe this Friday will produce yet another before the series ends sometime around in the east. That’s a memory I’d rather not have.
But I suppose next fall things will continue on much as they have for more than half a century. Gibbs will play its first game against the Grainger Grizzlies and most of the same folks will gather on their respective sidelines.
Gibbs and Grainger. I guess I’ll
get used to it. But I’ll miss that guy in the coonskin cap. I’ll miss the name
of my favorite little mountain town. I’ll sure miss that Pioneer. (I keep telling you that