Thanks to the efforts of Charles Alston and the gracious help provided by Jimmy Tillman and Jim Brett, I have put together a look at the 31-year-old football rivalry between SouthWest Edgecombe and Tarboro high schools.
The Edgecombe County rivals meet for the 33rd time Friday in Pinetops, the much-acclaimed "Function at the Junction" (a term coined in the early 1980s by former Tarboro Daily Southerner Sports Editor Mitch Evans) will boast the first pairing between teams ranked in the top 3 in the state.
But it's hardly the first big meeting in this quintessentially eastern North Carolina backyard brawl. The series began in 1978 when SouthWest Edgecombe, a new school formed from the student populations of South Edgecombe and West Edgecombe (hence, the capital W!), took a 62-0 drubbing at the hands of its established neighbor. That was the Vikings' biggest win in the series while the Cougars' came with a 23-6 win in 1985.
The schools didn't play again until 1982 with the next year beginning a stretch in which they met twice a year — once in the regular season and once in the state 3-A playoffs — in four of five seasons. The Cougars won both 1983 meetings; Tarboro won twice in 1987 and they split in 1984 and 1985 with Tarboro getting the playoff win in '84 and SWE in '85.
Tillman, who coached the Cougars from 1979 to 1990, remembers the meetings from that era as both teams being ranked each time. But Brett, the Tarboro head coach from 1975-1991, doesn't think there was ever a time the Vikings and Cougars met when both were ranked so highly.
"I doubt it," Brett said.
Besides the first game, Tarboro has two other shutouts with the latest being a 42-0 whitewashing in 2003. SouthWest's 18-0 win in 2005 was its only shutout. That was also current Cougars head coach Raymond Cobb's first of four straight wins against Tarboro.
SouthWest, which lost to Tarboro in Cobb's first season after coming over from North Edgecombe where he won two state 1-A titles, handed the Vikings their only loss (13-7) last season before Tarboro lost in the state 2-A championship to Newton-Conover.
There has never been an overtime game in the series which is a distinct possibility Friday night.
If you're going, get there early because "The Junction" (of Highway 43 and Wiggins Lake Road) isn't set up for parking for 4,000 which is what the crowd could easily be.