It was a sea of blue in the gym of James S. Rickards High school Friday night as all of Tallahassee came out to witness the Godby High Cougars and Rickards High Raiders battle it out for the second time this year.
In what many call the “Battle of the City,” the annual Godby and Rickards high school basketball game draws the attention of many Tallahassee natives and alumni, Including Leon county superintendent, and Rickards High alumni, Jackie Pons who was in attendance for the big game.
“It’s pretty much North side vs. South side” said Chris Ayers, Godby’s assistant basketball coach. “It’s one of the best rivalries in Florida. Both schools are similar in winning history, tradition, and style of play. It’s easy to compare it to Florida State and University of Miami on the high school level.”
This is a longtime rival, dating back to the 60s and is still strong today; the matchup is highly anticipated year round.
The game is a big deal to many including former Rickards High scholar Oksana Kenon who was one of the many alumni who came out to cheer for their alma mater.
“We are the only two prominently black schools in Leon County. We take pride in our school’s rich history and tradition,” Kenon said.
The Raiders had hopes to use their home court advantage to clinch a win, but in the end it was the Cougars who took home the win, defeating the Raiders 59-44 for a second time this month.
Rickards assistant coach, Cameron Coffee was on the Raiders last championship basketball team back in 2011, and understands the amount of pressure the players are under in terms of winning.
He believes that in order for them to win more, it’s pivotal that they regain their focus.
“We need to improve our ability to play defense, and also improve our focus,” he said.
This season Godby moved their classification up from 4A to 5A, and now join the same district as Rickards as well as neighboring county high schools Wakulla and Suwannee. The shift in districts allows for the two rival teams to meet up two additional times per season which gives fans ample opportunity to see the teams in action including possible playoff games.
“I believe we will make it to the playoffs,” Coffee said. “We have the talent, we just need to motivate ourselves to reach our full potential.”
Last season the Cougars brought home their very first boys basketball title after wrapping up a perfect season. This season the Cougars are 19-2 and are ranked No. 8 overall in the state, while the Raiders were runner up in the 5A boys basketball title last year and are currently 15-6.
“We have the talent to do it again, even though the road to win state is tougher this year. It’s hard to predict when it comes to amateur athletics.” Ayers said.
Both teams are expected to play again on Feb. 5.