Barnesville, John Glenn, Round 54

Did you realize that when John Glenn and Barnesville kick off Friday night, it will be the 54th straight year these teams have opened a season against each other?

That’s nearly unthinkable in an era where if one team gets good, the other simply drops them. It hasn’t happened for the Muskies and the Shamrocks, despite the fact that they’re now separated by two divisions in size – Barnesville is in Ohio’s Division VI and John Glenn is in Division IV. (Forget everything you ever knew about Ohio’s divisions. They’re all different these days).

It’s an Ohio Valley tradition like no other in Week 1 of the high school football season.

”I don’t see any end in sight,” Barnesville coach Matt Johnson said.

Despite the growing difference in the number of kids in the hallways, the rivalry has always been competitive. The series is 28-24-1 in favor of John Glenn, dating back to that first game in 1960, when Barnesville led 13-0, only to see the Muskies rally and win.

”Why do we still do it?” asked Barnesville athletics director Mark Cook. ”Because we like their people. From their athletic department to their coaching staff to the district itself, it’s a first-class operation. It’s always been a competitive but friendly rivalry.”

Johnson agreed.

”It’s always a clean game. There’s never been anything dirty,” he said. ”Go at it hard but shake hands at the end of the game and have respect for each other.”

Friday night’s game will be played in Barnesville. When they play at John Glenn, they play at Muskingum College, which adds interest for a guy like Johnson.

He played high school football at

Barnesville, then collegiately at Muskingum. Bringing it full circle, he coached his first game with Barnesville … at Muskingum College.

”It was neat to go back there,” Johnson said. ”That’s where I learned a lot of great life lessons from Coach (Jeff) Heacock.”

He’s trying to teach some of those to his Barnesville players now, some of whom spoke these as their first words: ”Barnesville-John Glenn, Week 1.”

Last year was an exception in terms of the competitiveness of the rivalry.

”They put it to us pretty good,” Johnson said.

The score was 49-6. The Shamrocks wound up at 4-6. John Glenn was 6-4. Neither made the playoffs.

”It’s a good gauge for us to see how far we’ve come in a year’s time,” Johnson said.

Johnson seems fairly excited about his group this year. John Glenn brings back a bunch. In other words, it will be as hard to pick a winner as it was the first 53 times.

The closest they’ve come to considering a change is moving the games at Muskingum to Thursday night because that Friday is generally the day freshmen move onto campus and parking becomes a problem.

Down the road, it’s entirely possible th rivalry will dissolve all together.

But, as Johnson said, ”It would be weird.”

Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: