By Max Goodwin
For one Saturday, on the football field at Ruskin High School, a rivalry was renewed. The battles between Ruskin and Hickman Mills High School once ignited the football season and brought school pride for the winner each year.
The rivalry died in 2009 when Hickman Mills High School closed and Ruskin became the only high school in the Hickman Mills School District.
It was a social media rivalry between Michael Rose, a Hickman Mills graduate of ‘96, and Donald Washington Jr., a Ruskin graduate of ‘97. Before they knew it, they were making calls for alumni of both schools to join them for a flag football game before the start of the high school season.
“With social media, the world is a lot closer than it had been,” Rose said.
As the plan came together the school district itself became involved and the event took off. Once the day arrived, there were food trucks on site, concessions available, and the game was played on the fresh new turf field at Ruskin High School.
Rose and Washington Jr. were both impressed with the number of people who turned out for the day, especially considering the game ended up at the same time as a Chiefs preseason home game. Both teams had at least two dozen players and a fair number of fans.
“Hopefully, what comes out of this is for those who graduated from Hickman, we can embrace Ruskin as our school and give support to those kids. They seem to go further in life when you have more people behind them,” Rose said.
The current Ruskin students who play on the football team walked the stairs of spectators raising money for the school’s athletic program. Washington Jr. is an assistant coach for the Ruskin football team.
The flag football game ended up as a low-scoring close game. With a minute left in the game and the score tied at 12, Hickman Mills was driving down the field for the game-winning score. The quarterback, wearing the orange of the Hickman Mills Cougars, dropped back and launched a deep pass that was tipped and landed right in the hands of a Ruskin Eagle defensive back who ran it back for a touchdown.
Rose looked up to the announcer’s area to appeal for more time on the clock. It was too late. Rose would have to admit defeat for the day, but before leaving the field for the day he would make sure to note that Hickman Mills was still leading the rivalry.
“You know, we (Hickman Mills) were up when the series ended,” Rose said. He’s ready to embrace Ruskin, as long as they remember that.
The plan is for the game to be played again next year and to become an annual event.