|Alumni football players from Portland High School and White House High School will get the chance to play a full-contact game, courtesy of Alumni Football USA.|
The Panthers will host the Blue Devils in the first home game of the season on Friday, Aug. 29 as they renew their long-standing rivalry. The game is sure to fill the stands under the Friday night lights, but it’s what happens the next night at Memorial Field that is certain to talked about for years to come.
On Saturday, Aug. 30, the Purple and Blue will play a game which won’t count in the standings but still may mean as much to fans when the alumni of the two schools take the field in the Portland vs. White House Alumni Game sponsored by Alumni Football USA Legends Series. The alumni game will feature a full-contact, high-school rules game Saturday on the same field. The first 40 participants from each alma mater to sign up are guaranteed a spot on the roster, and Alumni Football USA handles registration, insurance liability, equipment and event planning.
“This rivalry is more than pride,” said Portland head football coach Greg Cavanah. “To Portland and White House, this rivalry is a way of life. And what a better way for fans to come out and see former players mix it up one more time in a fun environment that benefits both schools.”
Portland is celebrating 100 years of education and athletics this season, and the two schools have been playing football against each other on and off for 70 of those years.
“All we do is provide the lined field and turn on the lights,” said Portland High School principal David Woods. “This group has had tremendous success with these type of games, especially in Kentucky and Ohio. At one of their conferences, someone mentioned they should check out Portland and White House in Tennessee.
“This is a great rivalry and will be a fantastic event for both schools,” he added. “They take care of all the details and the fans can come out and enjoy a great game.”
Kickoff time is 7 p.m. with pre-sale tickets at $10 each. Pre-sale tickets benefit the school, and Portland High School will use it as a football program fundraiser. Tickets sold the day of the game go directly to event organizers, so pre-sale tickets are vitally important to the school’s financial benefit.
“Whatever Portland fans and the community purchases prior to the game, 50 percent goes back to the football program here,” Cavanah said. “We plan to offer Coach Porter the same for the tickets sold by White House. It’s a great fundraiser, and we are hoping for great weather and an outstanding turn out, and the field should be in great shape even after the two high school teams kick it off Friday night.”
Alumni Football USA has raised over $1.3 million for high school football programs since 2010 through similar events. This will be the first of its kind in this area. Potential players wishing to register should not contact the schools, but rather go to alumnifootballusa.com.
“It’s really up to the schools to determine how much money we can raise for the program with pre-sale tickets,” explained Woods, entering his second year as the principal at PHS. “This can really be a great event for the fans and former players. I have known about the Portland-White House rivalry for a long time, especially when I was a coach at Beech High School. It was kind of like us with Hendersonville.
“You could play chess and there would be fans paint up their chest and pack the stadium. It doesn’t matter what the sport is, this is just a good community rivalry.”
There are five alumni football games scheduled in the state of Tennessee, but White House at Portland is the only one in Middle Tennessee. The others include Cherokee versus Volunteer; Campbell County versus Anderson County; Claiborne versus Cumberland Gap; and Copper Basin versus Polk County. There are 16 other tentative dates in negotiation.
With 40 roster spots available on each side, the online registration shows four signed up for White House and six for Portland at the time of publication. But word is spreading fast, according to coaches who have been contacted about potential players, and directed them to the website.
To be eligible, players must be football alumni from a respective school. According to White House head football coach Jeff Porter, this will actually be the third game of its kind between the two schools.
“In the 1980s, there were two games played which I believe were led by the quarterback clubs of both schools,” he said. “One of them ended in a 2-0 score on a safety.”
First-year White House principal Scott Langford was in high school at the time of those games, and his dad Bobby Jo, a former principal also, was one of the coaches.
“That was when the rivalry was at its peak and very intense,” Langford said. “The last few years, we have not played the regular season game in the same classification or region, so it’s not the same as it used to be, but an alumni game could be a great way to reconnect some of our fans and players of the past.”
While this year’s game is at Portland, Porter said his school and program would evaluate its success and the possibility of continuing it into next year at White House.
“It’s a good thing when the players keep it on the field and the fans keep the proper perspective in the right place, and this can be a great fundraiser for the football programs,” Porter added. “The biggest consideration for our programs is once we enter August, we are in season mode and as soon as our game is over we are immediately focused on next week. But if there is an organization like Alumni Football USA to oversee the project and undertake the event then it can be great for the fans of both communities.
“We will see how it goes this year and would love to consider hosting it next year if it is successful,” Langford added.
Alumni Football USA was founded by Bob Cazet and has produced over 1,000 games in 24 states over the last 29 years. Over 75,000 alumni of various schools have participated in the events, including 66-year-old Tim Smith of Aquin Catholic in Illinois, and 61-year-old Dennie Wright of Greenville, Calif.
The record for fundraising is $21,835 by Enka, North Carolina, in 2012.
Jessica Tompkins is the event coordinator for Tennessee. The number to reach Alumni Football USA is 855-843-8448.
The organizers of Alumni Football USA promote sportsmanship, and that’s exactly what this game is all about for both communities.
“We all know this is a big rivalry,” Cavanah said. “And we hope next year that we get to continue this at White House when the regular season game moves there. That was the key to receiving the blessing of our school superintendent to play this game, and we want to make sure that we have a clean, fun game with sportsmanship on both sides and then let this be a big event for both communities into the future.
“We are looking forward to an exciting event.”