This Friday will be the 75th meeting between varsity football teams from Lincolnton and Washington. Let's look back at how it all began.
The year was 1922. The streets in Lincolnton were dirt. Most buildings did not have electricity. A trip to Augusta was often an overnight event, with the route going through Double Branches and Appling. The local barber shop offered "hot and cold baths with running water."
Freight was brought in from Washington on the Washington & Lincolnton Railroad, either powered by a steam engine or on a gasoline car mainly used for passengers. Eskimo pies were a new treat that were shipped in to Crawford & Breazeale Drug Store every week; they cost 10 cents each.
Coca-cola was bottled at the Lincolnton Bottling Plant near the current Lincoln Center, since transportation wasn't available as it is today.
During their lifetime, most persons did not travel more than 50 miles from their birthplace. Children were expected to work in the fields after school.
There was no cellphone, no television, no Internet, and no Facebook. Communicating was primarily by hand-written letters that took days or weeks to reach their destination. Double Branches, Maxim, Leverett, and Bussey had post offices. There was a local phone system, with 2-digit phone numbers.
School was conducted in one- or two-room school houses around the County. Several of these were consolidated with the Lincolnton school to form the new Lincolnton High in 1921, which met in the "green" schoolhouse that had been built in 1915. The school had a championship track team that first year.
And then came football. Washington had started their prep gridiron squad in 1919, with a 9-game schedule in 1921. The Washington faithful didn't expect that new group from Lincolnton to score on them when they first met on Halloween afternoon in 1922. The Lincolnton group had won its first four games, the same total that the Washington team had won in its first three years.
One of Washington's most imposing players in 1922 was Lucius Groves. "Tiny" was 6'4" and weighed over 210 pounds when most players were under 140. And he was from Lincoln County. The Washington supporters arranged for him to move in with his cousin (and football star) Tom Nash's family. (Recruiting was not against the rules in 1922.)
The game, played on May Field in Lincolnton, ended in a 7-7 tie. Dr. C. H. May had donated his cow pasture, since it was fairly flat.
Here's an excerpt from The Lincoln Journal's story on that first Lincolnton-Washington game:
"The Washington aggregation, accompanied by carloads of rooting friends came here Tuesday and entered into a contest for football honors; the same being a con - especially by the fans of Wilkes, to the effect that Lincolnton would not score a touchdown, etc., etc., ad infinitum.
"But Lincolnton did SCORE a touchdown, and what is more, if Bud Bussey had not had his collarbone broken in the 1st quarter the story of Lincolnton's scoring would be written altogether differently. And this is not saying tha Washington did not play a hard game, nor that the eleven from that city is by any means slovenly -- to the contrary they are a bunch of game warriors and believe in playing football for all that is in them.
"The argument that was published in a Washington paper recently poking fun at Lincolnton's chance to win over the great, and only football team -- Washington -- read sort of ridiculous now since that great and only came here and had demonstrated to them that they had to use all their football knowledge -- and then some other knowledge -- in order to save themselves from going home with their heads hanging.
"But it was a good game, a gimminetty good game, and those who had the opportunity to witness it stood on tip toes all the way through."
The two teams had a rematch about a month later, on Thanksgiving afternoon at the fairgrounds in Washington. The home team won 13-6 to end a season where they shutout six of their 11 opponents, so Lincolnton made a good showing by scoring in two games. The crowds got a little rowdy at the second game, and the two schools would not meet on the gridiron again until 1939. The first Red Devil win wouldn't occur until 1949, with a 14-12 win in Lincolnton.
The teams from both communities have performed much better than the average high school team over the past 90 years. The Red Devils are currently second all-time in Georgia with a record of 697-246-23. The Tigers are 11th at 607-346-33.
With nine wins in the last ten meetings, the Red Devils now lead the all-time series 36-32-6. After 74 games, there is only a 13-point difference in the total points scored by the two rivals; the teams from Wilkes County have scored exactly 1,000 to the Devils' 987.
It's been said that some in Wilkes County care more about beating Lincoln County than they do about winning a state championship. That's true for some Red Devil fans as well. That may be the best definition of a real rivalry - caring more about a single game than the season as a whole.
And so it will be again this Friday, on the same dirt where the two schools first met 90 years ago. If you want a seat, get there early. The rivalry renews at 7:30.