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Gray’s Creek, South View quickly build rivalry as loyalties clash

Battle of the Bridge competition a key measure of programs’ pride

South View and Gray's Creek compete for the Battle of the Bridge trophy.
South View and Gray's Creek compete for the Battle of the Bridge trophy.
Contributed photo

As rivalries go, the one between Gray’s Creek and South View isn’t long in years compared to others in Cumberland County. But the back story on how it started has certainly amped up the emotions of those involved, even if it doesn’t have the weight of years of history to support it.

Unlike a lot of the newer schools in the Cumberland County system, Gray’s Creek was carved entirely out of the existing South View district when it opened its doors in 2003. 

Until the Bears got a little more established athletically, they didn’t play their older neighbor in football until 2007.

Since then, to say South View has dominated the rivalry is an understatement. The Tigers lead the series 14-2 with the Bears winning only in 2011 and 2015.

South View takes a seven-game winning streak into tonight’s rematch at South View’s Randy Ledford Field.

Jon Sherman, the head coach at Gray’s Creek, is a newcomer to the rival history. He played his high school football in Florida and returned to the area three years ago after graduating from Methodist University. He served previous coaching stints at Douglas Byrd and Jack Britt, among other schools, before landing at Gray’s Creek.

“I can tell it’s a big rivalry now,” he said.

It’s also changed the two communities a great deal.

He noted Southview Baptist Church, which is almost directly across Elk Road from the South View campus. Sherman said about 85% to 90% of the current membership has ties to Gray’s Creek, when at the beginning it was a pro-South View congregation.

Tiger head coach Rodney Brewington, himself a South View graduate, said a lot of his classmates at that time now live in Gray’s Creek.

“They may be South View at heart, but now their kids go to Gray’s Creek,” he said.

He thinks for at least another 10 or 15 years, the communities will be intertwined until a new generation grows up that entirely calls Gray’s Creek home. 

In 2010, then South View athletic director David Culbreth took the rivalry to a new level by instituting the Battle of the Bridge competition between the schools. He ordered a tall trophy with a picture of the bridge over Business I-95 that links the two communities on top.

The teams have played for the trophy ever since.

The players on the teams agree that this may not be homecoming or a conference championship game, but every year it’s one of the most important contests on the schedule of both.

The Bears are led by their potent running attack this year. Javon Webb is Gray’s Creek’s top rusher with 112 carries for 797 yards and eight touchdowns. Quarterback Tyler Davis has rushed 101 times for 735 yards and 15 scores. He’s thrown for another 219 yards and four scores, completing 11 of 31 passes.

“It’s always a big game, big atmosphere, big rivalry,” Davis said of the matchup. “A lot of my friends’ parents went to South View and talk about South View. Even people that work here at Gray’s Creek. I know they went to South View.”

“We’ve just got to execute, do our best, do what we know how to do,” Davis said.

He also thinks it’s a danger for teams to overlook Gray’s Creek’s passing game even though the Bears are clearly geared more to run the football.

“I think we can throw the ball if it comes down to it,” he said. “We’ve got guys who can make plays. We’re definitely good at running the ball.”

Webb said the Bears need to try and lock down the South View running game as much as possible.

“I haven’t beaten them in my high school career yet,” he said. “We beat them once in middle school, but that wasn’t even a big deal. It’s always a big game regardless of when we are playing them.”

South View features a more balanced offense than the Bears, with both a passer and a rusher over 1,000 yards for the season.

Running back Christian Rutledge has carried 124 times for 1,117 yards and 20 touchdowns while quarterback Tyriq Clarida has completed 74 of 125 passes for 1,307 yards and 10 scores.

Rutledge credits his offensive line and Clarida’s passing ability for forcing other teams to spread out more defensively and give him room to run.

“Everything is opening up because we are a versatile offense,” he said. “We know our game and we know what we need to do. We’re ready to play.”

In addition to his role running the offense, Clarida thinks leadership is an important part of what he does in helping the Tigers win.

“I’ve got to keep the team up,” he said. “I’ve got to be a team leader, make sure we’re ready, do my job and make sure everybody does theirs.”

Follow Earl Vaughan Jr. on X (Twitter): @EarlVaughanJr.

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Cumberland County, Fayetteville, sports, football, Gray's Creek, South View