BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) – A high school football tradition in Bristol is coming to a standstill.
Virginia High School and Tennessee High School have a rich history of crossing the state line to meet on the gridiron to decide Bristol’s victor.
But recently VHS made the decision to halt the V-T series for the next few years.
The Bearcats and Vikings were already not scheduled to play one another in 2020, due to decisions made by TSSAA and VHSL in regards to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, VHS has decided to shift the team’s schedule and not play THS in 2021 or 2022.
VHS assistant principal and athletic director Brad Harper said the decision was made earlier this summer over a Zoom meeting between the schools.
“It’s been a conversation for a while,” Harper said. “We had a virtual or Zoom meeting with our counterparts from the Tennessee side of town back in early summer probably, but from our end, it’s been a conversation for some time.
Harper told News Channel 11 that the enrollment gap between schools was a factor in the decision.
“Something of this magnitude is certainly not an easy decision,” Harper said. “But at the same time it is our responsibility to take care of our kids and our programs and to give them the best opportunities.”
VHS currently has an enrollment of around 640 students, which Harper says is about half of the enrollment of Tennessee High School.
“The tradition and history of this BT series is certainly something that is really special, but we’re kind of in different places right now,” Harpers said. “Anywhere from enrollment differences to resource differences and, you know, the financial backings of the programs. Even from the facilities standpoint.”
Harper says the decision to put the series on pause should not be taken personally and says their Bristol counterparts have been “great neighbors.”
The Bearcats hope to build their program back up with the hope of returning to the tradition.
Harpers said depending on the progress of their football program, VHS could hope to return to talking about the continuation of the series next school year with 2023 slated as the earliest possible date.
The community’s feedback on the decision has been largely positive, with Harper saying that most of the VHS family respects the change and understands the reasoning.
Patrick Henry High School will replace THS on the the Bearcats’ schedule for the time being.
The Bearcats and Vikings first began the series in 1911, when the teams played three times that season, according to FourSeasonsFootball.com.
The Bearcats would win one of those three, and the other two games resulted in ties.
In total, the Vikings have won 75 matchups, while the Bearcats have won 30. Five games ended in ties.
The Bearcats last victory over the Vikings was in 2011.