Best Rivalry 2013
USA TODAY High School Sports' second annual Best High School Football Rivalry competition has crowned a new champion - and once again, a pair of small towns emerged as the nation's best. The North Carolina rivalry of Louisburg and Bunn - towns with a combined population of 3,700 - managed 1,046,667 votes in the monthlong contest.
Louisburg vs. Bunn received 823,907 votes in the final round alone, outracing the New Mexico rivalry of Las Cruces vs. Mayfield down the stretch. In all, 3,828,522 votes were cast in the competition.
"It feels good that our two communities worked together like this to win something on a national level," Louisburg principal Freda Clifton said. "A lot of people in our communities have been here for their entire lives. Everyone is just so excited."
The rivalry was born immediately when Louisburg High School opened in 1961, and it reaches into all sports. In fact, on Wednesday, the day the rivalry was crowned a national champion, the teams will meet in basketball at the local college. The basketball game had to be moved to the college gym to accomodate the large crowds.
Louisburg-Bunn won its state round with 19,003 votes, and took its regional with 203,757 votes. The national round featured nine other rivalries: Leominster vs. Fitchburg in Massachusetts, Westfield vs. Plainfield in New Jersey, Wausau East vs. Wausau West in Wisconsin, Norfolk Catholic vs. Pierce in Nebraska, Upsala-Swanville vs. Royalton in Minnesota, Las Cruces vs. Mayfield in New Mexico and Mater Dei vs. Servite in California, Douglas vs. Bisbee in Arizona and Warner Robins vs. Northside in Georgia.
The New Mexico rivalry led much of the national round until a late run by North Carolina. The North Carolina rivalry receives $5,000 to be split evenly between the two schools, with other prizes going to all of the national finalists.
USA TODAY High School Sports selected five high school football rivalries in each state and Washington, D.C. after more than a month of conversations with local media and other state/school officials with high school football expertise. From there, the fans decide which rivalry emerges from a list of 255 - more than 100 more rivalries overall than a year ago. The state round ran from Nov. 18-27, with the Massachusetts' rivalry of Leominster vs. Fitchburg receiving the most votes nationally. The regional round opened Dec. 2 and closed with eight regional winners and two wildcards moving onto the finals. The New Mexico rivalry garnered the most votes nationally in the regional round with 220,459.
The "Best Of" contest series launched in November 2012 with the first best high school football rivalry competition, won by Brookfield vs. Marceline in Missouri. The teams celebrated their national title rivalry on Sept. 13 in Brookfield.
In January, Hartford (Vt.) was crowned as the People's Champion high school football team. And the monster of them all – the top high school mascot last spring – was won by the Centralia (Ill.) Orphans after 80 million total votes were cast during the competition. Last month, the best high school football coach competition crowned Philip Haywood of Belfry (Ky.) as its champion.