Longtime South Pittsburg-Marion County high school football rivalry is over

A high school football rivalry the state has known for almost a century will no longer be played. The South Pittsburg-Marion County football game is over…at least for now.

Many are shocked and pretty upset about it. It's the second-longest rivalry in Tennessee. It's all both towns have known dating back to before World War II. South Pittsburg's new coach came in and decided to end the series and that was it. He had the final say in how it all played out.

"It means a lot to this area,” said lifelong Marion County resident, JoAnne Williams.

The South Pittsburg Pirates and the Marion County Warriors have met under Friday night lights for 66 straight years until COVID hit.

Every year, it's the talk of the town the whole week leading up to kickoff.

"It's busy. Pretty much everybody in town goes to the game. It's packed,” said South Pittsburg resident, Robert Blake.

Now, the Warriors will have to hear the Pirate's cannon from eight miles away.

"Everybody gets happy to see that game and now that it's canceled it's going to be a sad day for Jasper and Pittsburg,” Veronica Fuged, a ’92 graduate from Marion County told us.

Kids who grew up watching the game and hearing about the rich tradition between the two schools won't get the chance to take part in the cross-county rivalry.

"I think they're getting cheated,” Blake said.

"The kids is the ones you worry about. The football players, what they going to lose,” Fuged told us.

South Pittsburg's new coach Chris Jones decided to end the series.

Last month, the Pirates were put on probation after a member of their quarterback club paid the rent of a player's family facing eviction.

It's widely thought to be a Marion County fan who turned this in. Marion County High School denied the claims that they played a role in turning in the South Pittsburg football team in a Facebook post.

Coach Jones did not want anything to escalate in a game between the two teams and put their postseason in jeopardy and ended the rivalry.

"It's not going to be normal the night of the game. Everybody is going to be depressed. Pittsburg is going to be playing somebody else. Jasper is going to be playing somebody else, and they should be playing each other,” Fuged said.

Voice of the South Pittsburg Pirates for 62 years Bob Sherrill says besides the state championship, Marion County-South Pittsburg is his favorite game to call and will miss doing it on Friday night this year.

“It's about community pride and the kids are passionate about it,” said Sherrill.

Superintendent of Marion County Schools, Dr. Mark Griffith, does not support this decision to end the rivalry and says the only way he could see it changing is pressure from the community.