By Sonya Thompson for The White House Tribune and The Portland Leader
It is no secret the football rivalry between Portland and White House High School has been a fun, but intense battle over the past 44 meetings. In fact, when the 2013 edition gets underway, the two teams are tied at 22 wins each.
Churches and organizations in both towns are preparing to bring the two communities together before the teams go head-to-head on the field, with a community tailgate party from 5:30-7:30 p.m. leading up to kickoff at White House’s Dewey H. Whitson Stadium. The tailgate party will be held at the large pavilion at the entrance to White House City Park, adjacent to the playground.
The event is sponsored by Revolution Church in White House and Generation Church in Portland and several other churches and organizations have sponsored the event in a partnership together.
“The two towns are just a few minutes apart, and football seems to divide them more than anything,” said Pastor Kris Freeman of Revolution Church. “This was really an idea to show some unity among the fans to take that rivalry and do something good with it. The reality is, most of these people know each other. They attend church together, shop together, or have families on both sides. So let’s take that and make something positive out of it.”
The event features free food, games, door prizes including football tickets to college and professional football games and the chance to win a football helmet for your favorite school. There will be food selections including hamburgers and hot dogs, side items, popcorn and cotton candy, and drinks. Everything is free. The only catch is filling out a slip of paper for a door prize if one hopes to win.
One of the first considerations was reducing potential concession sales income for the White House High School Band Boosters who operate a concession stand on Friday night. So event organizers took the idea one step further. Utilizing sponsor opportunities at $50.00 each, all donations or extra proceeds will be donated to the band for WHHS.
“This is the tough thing about doing a community event and offering free food,” Freeman said, “and we understand how that the band relies upon that concession income and we want to help balance what we might give away. So anything left, we’re giving back. And people will still be hungry when the game starts, so we encourage them to continue to use the concession stands in the stadium.”
“We were speechless and choked up for sure,” said band parent Kathy Clough. “We appreciate the shout out and everything they are doing for us.”
Sponsors for the event include churches like Revolution, Generation, Temple Baptist, The Church at Grace Park, Life Center, White House General Baptist, White House First Baptist, the White House High School Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and businesses Stratton DV Imaging, Allgood Septic, Think Ink, White House Family Practice, and CAR Maintenance and Performance.
“We are thrilled to be a part of a great event like this,” said Pastor Brandon Petty of Generation Church in Portland. “We know this is going to be an incredible football game but we also can’t wait to see both communities getting fired up together before it starts. It’s great to see everyone working together.”
Unity is the theme, and that will be emphasized at 6:30 p.m. when everyone in attendance pauses for a combined prayer featuring both towns and everyone involved. The prayer will be short, simple and focused.
“Regardless of who wins the football game, our kids, teachers and parents face tremendous pressure at the beginning of the school year,” Freeman explained. “In the last few years, our county school system has faced some tough issues. We want our leaders to know that we are behind them and our students to know how much we support these two programs being great schools and change agents in our community.
“We’re not just two communities concerned about football. It’s much bigger than that. We are raising kids that will lead our towns future and we want to pray to unify our communities around that concept together. We’re better together.”
That doesn’t mean the rivalry won’t be intense when the ball kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Freeman is a 1993 graduate of Portland High School and has worked as a support staff volunteer for WHHS for the last 17 years, so the rivalry is special for him. However, in 2001 White House and Portland were moved into separate regions and have competed as a non-district game since.
“There was nothing better than this game when the winner was likely going to win the region and compete for a semifinal appearance or a state championship,” he said. “I had the opportunity to be on both sides having grown up at PHS and then getting a tremendous opportunity to work alongside great people at WHHS.
“The truth is, my family and friends are on both sides and people care about seeing both communities succeed. The rivalry is fun, so let’s enjoy it and make a difference at the same time.”
There will be shirts available at the event featuring the helmet logo for both schools and all proceeds benefit the WHHS Band Boosters. The event is privately sponsored and is not an official event of Sumner County Schools or either high school.