From the very first weekend back in 1990, when Southampton upset eventual Division 4 state champion Tabb, close games, large home crowds and a tight-knit coaching fraternity have characterized Bay Rivers District football. That remained true through the past two seasons, when championship-deciding York-Lafayette, and Lafayette-Smithfield classics decided the title.
But a sure sign of confusion about the district's importance in the wake of Virginia High School League's realignment this season is that one district coach asked on Monday if the district champion even gets a trophy this season. For the record, it does.
District teams will continue with the same nine-game district schedule as the past four seasons, beginning with four games on Friday and another on Saturday. Still, the advent of conferences and 16-team regionals begs the question: "How important are Bay Rivers District football games and the district championship, now?"
Responses among district coaches vary.
Tracy Harrod (Bruton): "I love the Bay Rivers. It doesn't get any bigger than playing Lafayette and the other Williamsburg schools, and Tabb and York. The Bay Rivers District is very important to our identity. If we can beat a Lafayette or a York or a Tabb, with their history, it's very important."
Matt McLeod (Grafton): "I'm an old-school guy who likes districts. I want to be able to say we own the neighborhood."
Lee Williams (Jamestown): "The money in the district games is better, and from what I've heard playing teams in the BRD won't hurt you. It could be a big deal in the years to come. I might get more (playoff ratings) points from losing to a larger (state Group 4A) school like Dinwiddie, because they will win lot, than I'll get from playing Bruton, because they're 2A."
Andy Linn (Lafayette): "We don't talk about the district championship at all. We talk about taking care of ourselves one game at a time and doing our best. The games against our Williamsburg (area) rivals, Bruton, Jamestown and Warhill, will always be different and important."
Dan Rounds (New Kent): "We're a (state Group) 3A team, and playing in the Bay Rivers gives us the opportunity to beat four larger (4A) teams. It's pretty important because of that."
Elliott Duty (Poquoson): "I don't know if (the district title) matters as much any more, but it's still a prize and you still want to be known as the district champion. It's still something you want to play for and our objective is to win the district, but you just want to get better and be the best you can at the end of the year."
Clark Harrell (Smithfield): "My feeling is that we're a Bay Rivers District team, so you better be worried about what's happening (in the district) in September, not what's going to happen in the playoffs in November."
Matt Lawson (Tabb): "I can see where the districts were important in the other sports, because you had to get in the top two to make the regionals. But personally, a district championship has never meant that much to me because in football winning every game is just as important as far as making the playoffs."
Obie Boykin (Warhill): "To be completely frank, it's nice to have your (district) schedule pre-set and the business side of (district games) is good, but the Bay Rivers District championship is completely irrelevant. The Bay Rivers championship is something you earn if you have a good record and the trophy is nice, but it's all about getting wins and (ratings) points to play that 11th (playoff) game."
Doug Pereira (York): "Until the Bay Rivers goes defunct, it's a big deal to us and still very important to what we're trying to accomplish. You can't win the conference at this point, because we're not affiliated with each other (in football) each week. We still talk about winning the Bay Rivers District championship."
BRD this week
•Lafayette at Bruton, 7
•New Kent at York, 7
•Poquoson vs. Tabb, 7 at Bailey Field
•Smithfield vs. Warhill, 7 at Wanner Stadium
•Jamestown vs. Grafton, 7 at Bailey Field