Battle of Big Sandy to end

By Reece Waddell | Published Thursday, February 1, 2018
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The Battle of Big Sandy on the grid iron is over — for now.

After nearly 100 meetings, Decatur and Bridgeport are calling it quits. When the University Interscholastic League unveiled its latest round of realignment Thursday morning, the two schools did not have each other on their non-district football schedule.

The two schools landed in different 4A divisions. Decatur is in District 4-4A Division I and Bridgeport in 3-4A Division II for football.

The two schools will be in the same league for basketball — 8-4A. They will likely remain district rivals when the UIL unveils districts for the other sports later this spring.

The Eagles lead the all-time football series 64-28-6 and have won the last five meetings by a combined score of 291-96.
Bridgeport coach Shannon Wilson said it was in the best interest of the Bulls to discontinue the annual contest.

“If I really thought it was a [big] deal for our community and our kids, and it was meaningful – and they really, really wanted [to play], then I wouldn’t be [cancelling it],” Wilson said.

Decatur coach Mike Fuller said he first learned Bridgeport was not interested in renewing the rivalry around Christmas, adding that he had seen it coming for a few months.

“It’s something that’s been around for a long time,” Fuller said. “[The players] have been fine. They’re a little bit disappointed, but they know how it goes. It may come back one day, hopefully. We wanted to continue to play, and they didn’t want to.”

The two schools last took a break in the series in 1990 and 91. Since first playing in 1921, the two schools have met in all but 12 years.

Bridgeport last beat Decatur in 2012. The Bulls had a three-game winning streak in the series between 2008-10.

When the schools turned in enrollment figures in October for realignment, Decatur checked in with an enrollment of 1,054 – 96 students below the 5A threshold. Meanwhile, Bridgeport had an enrollment of 651 –just 146 students above the 3A cutoff.

Wilson said the enrollment disparity between the two schools was a factor in the discontinuation of the series.

“I’ve been told by some since I got here [the rivalry] is something we need to evaluate,” Wilson said. “I promise you from the day I got here no one has said ‘man, you’ve gotta play Decatur. It’s the most important thing.’ It’s been opposite, honestly. It’s been lopsided. In the last five years the growth … the disparity is a lot different.

“I’m trying to put our kids in the best position to be successful, and right now, whether it be mental or whatever, that’s not a game that’s been favorable for us. At any level.”

See more on the rivalry in the weekend Messenger.

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