"Titans! Titans! Go-go Titans!" Nearly five hundred rowdy students, cheering and chanting team fight songs, shouted at the top of their lungs. "Titans! Titans! Too-tough Titans!" Deep in the woods of central Pennsylvania, the gymnasium walls of Tannerville High shook with wild team spirit. "Titans! Titans! Go-go Titans!" Pumped with adrenaline, the senior class shouted across the open court. Juniors on the other side shouted back, but louder, raising the excruciating noise level. Freshman and sophomores merely hung on for the ride.
A town over, Holland High students and teachers celebrated in their gymnasium with a rally of their own. Coach Abrams excitedly took the microphone. "I'm proud of these boys," he announced, motioning to his Jaguar squad. Everyone clapped; a psyched fan hooted. He waited for silence. "Hard work! That's what got 'em here … into the Super Bowl. Now let's knock them Titans dead!" He pumped his fist in the air, sending four hundred students erupting into deafening cheers. "Come on, let's hear it … Let's kick some butt!" Seniors, juniors, sophomores, and hesitant freshman flooded the stuffy gymnasium floor, and, as they did, the bleachers, flimsy and retractable, waved miserably like an ocean.
The Tannerville Titans and the Holland Jaguars, long-time rivals, had last met weeks earlier on Thanksgiving morning, a ritual reserved as if a religious rite for the fiercest competitors. And fierce competitors they were. In that meeting the Titans claimed victory 13-10 to even the historical record at 25 games apiece.
Now the stakes were higher than ever – the Lincoln County Super Bowl would be the 51st and next game between the two. Bragging rights for the year ahead, emotional lift for games to come, and pride were only 60 grueling minutes of football away.
But the Lincoln County championship wasn't the only thing they fought for. Each, with more than 400 students coming from a ten-mile radius, fought for the same state funds. In years past they shared more in common, like in the sixties when Tannerville and Holland were racially diverse. But the advent of manufacturing facilities in Holland changed more than just the landscape. With an abundance of blue-collar jobs, Holland became home to the lower class, which turned out to be more blacks than whites. The rest, predominantly white, flocked to Tannerville, where they led middle-to-upper class lives. Since then, the two towns grew further apart, garnering a hateful battle over different ideals.
Back on Thanksgiving, speculation swirled about the possibility of the Titans and Jaguars meeting in the county championship. Each had to win their remaining games as well as hope for key losses by other abiding teams. Now, weeks later, talk of "What if?" had come full circle. Tomorrow, Saturday, the Titans of Tannerville were going to meet the Jaguars of Holland in the Lincoln County Super Bowl.
Local media outlets touted the rivalry, using it to sell papers. The Tannerville Tribune earlier in the week extended a public invitation across its front page:
Come cheer on your Titans!
What: Titan Tailgate
When: Game day at noon.
Where: Tannerville High student parking lot.
The following morning, the Holland Daily countered with an op-ed column by prized sports columnist Jessie Greenwell. The Tribune, claiming it was a racially motivated attack on Tannerville's society, fired back with its own op-ed, blasting the quality of life over the border "Super Bowl shows Holland's true colors", was the suggestive title.
Rivals, the Titans and Jaguars always played each other close, although over the years their successes had been quite different. For the Titans, it was their first Super Bowl appearance. But not the Jaguars, they'd been there four times, including twice in the past four years, but have yet to win the big game, a reputation Coach Abrams and his Jaguars could stand to lose.