Column: Time for an Orange and Eastern Alamance football series

Updated: July 9, 2019

Scott Satterfield’s junior season should have been longer.

His first game of the 1989 season progressed nicely for Orange under new head coach Greg Gentry. He led Orange to an early lead thanks to some gun runs by Larry Pounds and throws to wide receiver Greg Leimone. In the third quarter, Scott ran toward the Eastern sidelined under pressure and was called for intentional grounding when he threw the ball out of bounds well shy of any eligible receiver.

But that wasn’t the worst thing that happened on that play.

Satterfield tore his ACL, ending his season after only two quarters. Eastern came back with a late touchdown in the fourth quarter to beat Orange.

The following season, Orange got revenge. Damon Scott, who would later join Satterfield in the backfield at Appalachian State, rushed for 101 yards as Orange won a turnover-filled game against the Eagles, the first of seven wins in 1990.

Remarkably, Orange and Eastern Alamance haven’t competed continuously in football since then. Even though the two schools are only 13 miles apart.

Unlike so many schools in the Sandhills, by the coast or in the mountains, Orange doesn’t have a traditional nonconference rival. In recent years, Orange coaches have futility tried to resume the series against Person, who curiously joined the Triad-based Mid-Piedmont Conference when they dropped down to 3A instead of joining the Big 8 (supposedly, the reason why was because the NCHSAA didn’t want nine team conferences.)

The closest thing to a nonconference rivalry for Orange is now Riverside, which doesn’t really focus on the Panthers as its main rival. That’s Northern Durham.

There’s a linkage between Hillsborough and Mebane that extends to the youth level of football. Simply put, Hillsborough doesn’t have youth football because the interest just isn’t there.

When players like Payton Wilson, Bryse Wilson, Stone Edwards and others wanted to develop their abilities during middle school, they traveled across the country line to Mebane. Other players still do, where some go to Durham.

Eastern is fertile ground for football players, but in Hillsborough the game is in somewhat of an existential crisis with fewer players playing than ever before. Numbers at Stanford Middle School fell by 20-30 players last season. The situations at Cedar Ridge and Chapel Hill High from last year are well known, and it still isn’t clear if the Tigers will return with a varsity squad in August.

In college football, Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson understood to liven up pigskin interest at his small, private school, he would need to start facing nearby opponents. That’s why Wake traveled to Appalachian State in 2017, and will welcome the Mountaineers to Groves Stadium in 2020. It will be Appalachian’s first trip down to Winston-Salem in 19 years. Wake is even scheduling a nonconference game against UNC this year (Wake isn’t supposed to play UNC again as a conference opponent until 2021)

Why? Because it’s a game people want to see.

Orange and Eastern should be no different.

Apparently, the reason why Eastern can’t schedule Orange is because the Alamance County School System requires the Eagles to play other Alamance County schools in its nonconference schedule. But nowadays, how much muster does a game against Graham and Cummings really carry?

Not as much as a potential matchup against Orange would.

And another thing. This isn’t limited to football. Last year, Eastern played two Hillsborough teams in the state playoffs. The Eagles defeated Orange in the opening round of the 3A Women’s Basketball playoffs. Of course, Eastern defeated Cedar Ridge en route to the 3A State Softball Championship.

Both of the atmospheres for those games were the best in their respective sports all season. Of course, the playoffs added something to it.

But it’s time for Orange and Eastern to meet regularly on the gridiron to give the people what they want.

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