Northeast Florida Sports Jacksonville

Washington vs Raines…. More than just a Game!

William M. Raines of Jacksonville will face Booker T. Washington of Miami in the 4A State title game today in prime time. The game without question was scheduled at the conclusion of Saturday to headline as the main event of the day.

Both teams have lots of history within their communities. Booker T, located in the Overtown area of Miami, was opened in 1926 to African American residents of Dade County, Fl.  It is the second oldest urban public high school in Dade County. George Washington Carver High School was the first.Booker_T_Washington_Football-Vernacotola-0007-S It was one of only two schools in Dade County that African Americans were allowed to attend. Raines was officially established in 1965, but it’s roots stem much deeper in the community. Many families who attended the school in it’s inception were descendants of persons who attended Matthew Gilbert High School (now a middle school) and old Stanton (now Stanton Prep), schools which opened much earlier. Both Raines and Booker T represent history and opportunity within the residents of the city. An opportunity that before that time, was not afforded to the predominate demographic of its community.11935164_1497444033908336_2306838578989394685_oThis is what makes Washington versus Raines so unique. Not necessarily the battle on the field but what the two schools represent off the field. Now don’t get me wrong, every one will be waiting to see Raine’s  big play Wide Receiver Rick Wells ( committed to UF) face Booker T’s  DB Kyle Mayberry( Kansas commit ). Or Booker T’s stud RB Justice Hill (Oklahoma St commit) showdown against Raine’s  ILB Michael Pinckney ( Miami commit ). It certainly makes for exciting high school football. But that story-line in itself isn’t what makes the game represent so much more. On the field, there isn’t much difference than Washington vs Bolles or Raines versus Gulliver Prep. Your going to see good teams, and future college football prospects grace the field. But with Raines versus Booker. T,  your going to see more than just good players, your going to see two similar communities coming together as well.

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I can remember my first and only Florida High School Football Finals visit in 1995 as a freshman at Sandalwood. The finals back then were still held in Daytona. Sandalwood, a public school located on Jacksonville’s Southside came into the title game undefeated and with the eventual Mr. Florida award winner RB Frankie Franklin. We faced Miami Northwestern ( Booker-T’s rival) who was known for having athletes at every position on the roster.  Now on the field the game proved to be evenly matched with Northwestern winning 12-7. But off the field the matchup wasn’t even close. Looking at the Miami Northwestern sideline, it looked as if the Bulls brought all of Miami -Dade County with them. Even though Sandalwood possessed the better record and was technically the “home team”,  the Saints and their following had to sit on the visitor side of the stadium. Why? Because so many people traveled from Miami to support Northwestern, that the visitor side was not be large to seat them. It was one of many wake up calls I received when it came to ” Miami football”, and how football within the inner city of Miami meant so much more to the residents there than the residents of Jacksonville.

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Yes I know that the Dade / Broward County area has more people than Duval County, but this overwhelming edge of support was more than simply a census measurement. Many of the Northwestern supporters did not attend Northwestern. Some attended Booker T, Carrol City, Miami Central, Miami Jackson, among other rival schools. I failed to realize that then, but I would be enlightened  years later when I met several people from those high schools while in college at Florida A&M University. There friends who were in college at the time, looked to travel to FSU ( where the FHSAA finals relocated to) to cheer on their “rival” high school teams. This revelation was mind blowing to me.  I couldn’t imagine Terry Parker, and Fletcher fans traveling to Daytona to cheer on their rivals Sandalwood back in 95′, but this is how the football community in Miami worked. They love football and they support the entire community when it comes to championships. Jacksonville needs this type of comradery and this is the perfect opportunity to start.

Raines has won the title before, thanks to (thorns in my side) Lito Shepard, Dejuan Green, Jabar Gafney and company. But that was against Glades Central of Belle Glade Florida. Or the “muck” as they affectionately call it. Indeed some of the best athletes in the state come out of Palm Beach County, but Belle Glade is about as big as the Jacksonville fair grounds and in no way compares to the city of Jacksonville. Miami on the other hand does. In fact, Jacksonville’s claim of being “the bold new city of the south” suggest that Jacksonville is focused on taking the city to another level. Primed to compete with her big sister to the south (Miami). hatjaxThe Miami versus Jacksonville dynamic stretches across further lines of separation than their geographical locations in the state. Last year, the NFL sponsored hats with city’s skylines on them. But when they released the Jacksonville hat, it happened to have the Miami skyline on it. The Jaguars arn’t heated rivals with Tampa Bay, but they are with the Miami Dolphins. This year in Pop Warner Football Gwen Cherry (Miami)  defeated Sweetwater (Jacksonville) and Forestview (Jax) defeated Overtown (M.I.A). It’s a given that most times either a team from Jacksonville or Miami will be representing the South East region at National in Pop Warner. And then there is the city’s nicknames. “305” or M.I.A versus “Duuuuuval”…. so fun was “Duuuuval” to say in college that some of my Miami friends reluctantly admitted that they wished they were from Jacksonville if only to be able to shout “Duuuuuval”. NFL players, many who come from the state of Florida are quick to rep where they are from, Dade or Duval. It’s a fraternity that others around the league can’t understand.

It’s not a rivalry of animosity, but rather a rivalry of respect. And you can bet that Miami will show their respects today in Orlando. So Duval must do the same. Whether you are a Raines Viking or not, Raines is representing more than just their school, they are representing more than just their city, they are representing an idea. An idea that a public school from Jacksonville can defeat a public school from Miami. It’s more than just a game, its a way of life.




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