Whose school rules? The competition is fierce when these rivals square off on the field, in the classroom or across the chessboard

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

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In 1878, high in the Appalachian hills, Randell McCoy looked upon the hog pen of his neighbor, Floyd Hatfield. One of those hogs looks familiar, he thought. Too familiar.

Randell angrily accused Floyd of stealing the hog. The men argued the case in court; when Floyd won, Randell swore eternal vengeance.

Now, no one’s saying that the Hatfields and McCoys are good models for anyone to follow. (Twelve people died in their infamous feud.) But there’s something to be said for a good rivalry. Rivals can push each other to new heights, channeling occasionally irrational emotions into performance and success.

Herewith, a highly subjective listing of North Texas’ 10 best school rivalries:

Carrollton Creekview vs. Plano East

QUICK START: Creekview, which opened just six years ago, may not have decades of thespian history. Yet it’s had plenty of success. It’s won first or second place in the state’s largest division three out of the last four years.

NO GREEK TRAGEDY: But in 2004, Plano East had the edge. Its rendition of Big Love, Charles Mee’s update of an Aeschylus classic, took second place in the state, the best showing of any Dallas-area school.

CONTROVERSY: One possible reason for Creekview’s off-year: A controversy over its initial choice of plays, Six Degrees of Separation. A lead character in that play is gay, and complaints from some parents led to school administrators forcing a change of scripts.

Dallas Lipscomb Elementary vs. Dallas Dealey Montessori

YOUNG DOMINANCE: When Lipscomb’s young Kasparovs take their seats at a chess match, checkmate usually isn’t far away. They’re the dominant program in the youngest division of Dallas Area Chess In Schools, finishing first or second in the city the last three years. “It’s great to take a school that’s 90-percent Hispanic and low socioeconomic and often beat the private schools,” said teacher and chess coach Julie Blasingame.

OLDER KIDS: But Lipscomb enrolls students in only kindergarten through third grade – which leaves an opening for rival Dealey, a K-6 campus. With older elementary students, Dealey has ranked among the city’s top three chess programs seven times in its last 10 chances.

OTHER CHALLENGERS: Sudie Williams, George Peabody and James Hogg Elementaries

Lindsay vs. Muenster vs. Valley View

SMALL-TOWN RIVALS: These three tiny towns near the Oklahoma line are within 20 miles of one another and not close to much else. But Lindsay (pop. 710), Muenster (pop. 1,387), and Valley View (pop. 640) eat like big dogs when it’s time for UIL academic competitions.

STATE DOMINANCE: “They’re probably the top three small schools in the state,” said Bobby Hawthorne, UIL’s director of academics. Lindsay is the biggest star: They’ve won state sweepstakes titles nine of the last 13 years. But Muenster and Valley View have both grabbed state titles during that span, too.

REUNITED: After realignment, all three schools will be in the same district this fall for the first time in years. “We’re all cousins to each other,” said Craig Hertel, Lindsay’s UIL director. “I try to downplay the rivalry a bit, but the kids are very much aware of it.”

Plano Senior vs. Plano East

YES, IT IS: These two traditional powerhouses both often finish the year ranked in the state’s top five. Plano Senior’s had the edge of late – five state sweepstakes wins in the last 10 years and three students winning national championships over the same span.

NO, IT’S NOT: But Plano East is a program on the rise – it beat Senior at district, regional and state competitions this year.

MOUTHING OFF EARLY: The key to their success? Starting early. Plano middle schools start speech programs in sixth grade and debate in seventh. In-district tournaments give the younger kids experience; by the time they reach ninth grade, they’re already battle-scarred veterans.

UP-AND-COMING: And if either school rests on its laurels? “Plano West is the newbie, but some of the best debaters are coming up through its feeder pattern,” said Nancy Connors, Plano ISD’s former speech coordinator.

Duncanville High vs. L.D. Bell

ONE, TWO; TWO, ONE: UIL scheduling means these titans face off for state titles only in even-numbered years. Lately, they’ve made the most of those chances. Duncanville finished first in 2002 and second in 2000; L.D. Bell finished first in 2000 and second in 2002.

MARCHING ARMIES: Both have rosters stacked with hundreds of students, and both prided themselves on precision marching and playing. Duncanville – whose repeat appearances on this list help explain the suburb’s nickname, “City of Champions” is a perennial power, with state titles in 1986 and 1990.

SLIPPERY WHEN WET: The last time these two faced off, in 2002, the weather got in the way. The state finals were canceled after officials feared injuries on a rain-slick field, and Duncanville was given the title for having the best score in preliminary rounds. If both squads can make state again this year (they’ll face off first in area round) the turf is sure to be dry this time. The finals will be at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Arlington Martin vs. Arlington Lamar vs. Arlington

THIS TOWN’S NOT BIG ENOUGH: They’re three of the region’s top programs, finsihing 2003 with a combined 101 victories against 24 losses.

BUMP, SET, SPIKE: “They’re three high-quality, competitive programs,” said Scott White, editor of LoneStarVolleyball.com. “The gym is always full when they play each other.” Rivalries are fueled by the club volleyball season, when many girls cross boundaries to play on each other’s club teams.

WHO’S ON TOP: Martin has current bragging rights. The Warriors finished the year 39-5; the team was ranked as high as No. 2 in the state before losing in the state semifinals. But Arlington and Arlington Lamar both finished in the state’s top 20.

DeSoto’s Eagle Eye vs. Duncanville’s Panther Prints

SKINS ON THE WALL: Since the 19080s, Duncanville High and DeSoto have had two of the best high school newspapers in the nation. Since 1989, DeSoto has won three Gold Crown awards from the high school equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize. That sounds nice, but Duncanville has won 11 over the same span.

SIZING THEM UP: “Duncanville has some of the most outstanding student photography in the nation,” says Randy Vonderheid, journalism guru for the University Interscholastic League. “DeSoto often has stronger writing and stronger design.” (Mr. Vonderheid, a former DeSoto teacher, claims no bias.)

MAYBE NEXT YEAR: This year’s Gold Crowns did nothing to settle the rivalry. Both Schools won one in 2004. (So did The ReMarker, student newspaper at St. Mark’s School of Texas.)

Dallas Carter Cowboys vs. Dallas Kimball Knights

IT’S A FAMILY AFFAIR: These longtime rivals, only five miles apart, face off in the Oak Cliff Super Bowl every year. “It’s just like playing a game against your family,” says Charles Breithaupt, UIL’s director of athletics. “They’re so close together. They compete so hard. It’s bragging rights for a full year.”

COWBOYS ON TOP: Carter, one of the area’s top programs, has held bragging rights lately. The Cowboys have won the last two games, including a 31-7 shellacking last year. “I just thank the Lord we won,” Carter QB Twaneil Spead said afterward. “I can come back and brag.”

A NEW HOME: For years, the Oak Cliff Super Bowl has been played in – Addison? But not for long: In March, Dallas ISD broke ground on the $40 million Jesse Owens Memorial Athletic Complex, which will include a 12,000-seat football stadium within jogging distance of both squads.

Highland Park vs. Colleyville Heritage

PENCIL PUSHERS: All high school students complain they’ve got so much work to do because their classes are so hard. Students at these two schools aren’t kidding. Each year, Washington Post education writer Jay Mathews compiles the Challenge Index, a rough measure of how challenging the course load is at thousands of high schools nationwide.

DO THE MATH: Mr. Mathews’ index is a count of how many Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests are given at a school, divided by how many graduating seniors it has.

SCOTS ON TOP: Highland Park has the area’s highest Challenge Index, with 3.69 AP and IB tests for every senior. That’s good enough for 15th in the nation. Colleyville Heritage is next, with 2.27 tests per senior. (Plano West and McKinney are right behind.) But everybody in Texas is stuck looking up at the state’s top performer: the Science Academy of South Texas in Mercedes, with 4.02 tests per senior.

The Greenhill School vs. St. Mark’s School of Texas

NO THIN ENVELOPES: They’re two of the area’s top private schools. And every spring, you can be sure officials are more than a little curious to see where graduating seniors will have their mail forwarded.

LONE STAR CHAMPS: In 2002, when Worth magazine published a ranking of which American high schools send the most graduates to Yale, Harvard and Princeton, Greenhill was tops in Texas. It was the 37th-best “feeder school” in the nation; roughly one out of every 13 Greenhill grads lands at one of the three elite Ivys. St. Mark’s finished 100th.

ELSEWHERE: Only one other Texas school made the top 100: Houston’s St. John’s School, which came in 31st.