This date won’t include dinner

Let’s not go overboard with this friendly rivalry thing.

A note from “The Great American Rivalry Series” stated that the Columbus North and Columbus East football teams were scheduled to have a “joint team dinner” early in the week.

Believe me, it’s not that friendly. Somebody was misinformed.

Even so, while the two teams might not be sharing lasagna, they do share a lot of respect. They also produce some mighty good football.

That brand of exciting football captured the interest of “The Great American Rivalry Series,” which has picked Friday’s showdown at Columbus East as one of the top rivalry games in the nation this season.

Most states landed at least one game in the series, and Indiana had two. The other was played last Friday as Elkhart Central beat Elkhart Memorial 28-25.

Schools that want to be considered go through a nomination process where they send information about their rivalry to “The Great American Rivalry” people in Louisville, Kentucky. Those nominations are then forwarded to series sponsors, such as the U.S. Army, which subsequently became the main sponsor Friday night.

According to David Kravetz of “The Great American Rivalry Series,” the closeness of the series combined with the support given it from the community were main factors in the U.S. Army’s selection of the event.

East leads the series 22-21, and an expected crowd of more than 5,000 fans gave the game the edge among the more than 300 games that submitted nominations to be included. The rivalry series just entered its 12th year.

The “Great American Rivalry Series,” which was founded by Rick Ford, also includes some fun stuff that takes place away from the football field. An in-school rivalry fitness challenge will decide which school receives a crystal fitness trophy at halftime of the football game.

“The Great American Rivalry Series and the Rivalry Series Fitness Challenge offers both academic and physical challenges, which reflect key elements of life as a soldier,” said Kelli Bland, U.S. Army Recruiting Command’s public affairs officer in a press release. “In the Army, we build our soldiers physically, morally and academically; we build them to be qualified for life, not just the Army. We appreciate the opportunity to have a positive impact on the lives of these students.”

Obviously, this is a recruiting tool for the U.S. Army, but it also adds a little something more to the importance of the game, and that’s certainly OK with me, especially in a season that promises to feature two outstanding teams.

The winning team Friday will receive a trophy and the winning players will receive “championship” hats. A most valuable player award will be presented and the top student-athlete from each school will be recognized.

Better than everything else, the winner of Friday’s game must be considered a state championship contender. The two teams are that good.

But, please, don’t bet on a joint postgame dinner.

Jay Heater is the Republic sports editor. He can be reached at jheater@therepublic.com or 379-5632.