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West-Newton County: Area's hottest rivalry?

By By Marty Stamper/The Meridian Star
Nov. 16, 2001
There's one sure bet you can make Friday night when West Lauderdale hosts Newton County in the second round of the Class 3A state football playoffs. Both sides will have their stands packed with supporters.
The Knights, 7-4, host the Cougars, 11-0, for the right to take on the Philadelphia-Collins survivor next week, but it wouldn't matter if they were playing a regular season game … which they did on Sept. 28. The stands will be full.
It wouldn't even matter if they were playing basketball, baseball, or softball. When these two play each other, there will be plenty of folks on hand to take it in.
And that's just fine with West athletic director Jerry Boatner, who also coaches baseball and slow-pitch softball.
Newton County's Mack Fanning agreed to the profitablity of the rivalry as he also serves as his school's athletic director along with coaching slow-pitch and fast-pitch softball. He also coached the Cougar baseball team for several years.
Two years ago, Newton County took in nearly $1,800 from a regular season slow-pitch game with West at Decatur.
Newton County holds a 9-1 advantage in the football series, but West couldn't find a better time to get its second win over the Cougars. Ending Newton County's perfect season would add that much more fuel to the rivalry down the road.
West, which was formed in 1962, used to play Beulah Hubbard and Decatur, which were consolidated into Newton County, along with Hickory, in 1990.
Newton is only about eight miles from the NCHS campus and has played the Cougars every year in football, while West and Newton County did not play in 1995 and 1996 after West moved up to Class 4A. When the Knights moved back down to 3A in 1997, the rivalry picked up where it left off.
The two schools know they usually will have to go through the other to make the playoffs as both are members of Region 5-3A.
Fanning's slow-pitch team knocked West out of the playoffs this fall in the semifinal round en route to a state championship. West beat Newton County in the finals of last year's tournament to capture its fifth state title. Newton County knocked West out in the third-place game in 1999.
Two years ago, West beat Newton County in the semifinals of the state baseball playoffs, naturally taking the best-of-three series to the third game.
The two have had their battles on the basketball court as well with most games not decided until the final second is played out.
Marty Stamper is a writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at or call him at 693-1551, ext. 3235.