“It feels good,” Wells said after the game March 6. “It feels good to beat Jacksonville especially.”
Jacksonville took as much notice of the quote as anyone else in the county, if not more.
“I don’t know why I said it, but I really don’t like them,” Wells said Tuesday. “I moved here my 10th grade year, so it’s only lasted a few years, but just from playing a few games, I’ve picked up the rivalry.”
That rivalry will renew this week when Jacksonville (15-9) and Alexandria (23-10) face off in the Class 4A state baseball playoffs. Alexandria will host the second-round series, which will include a doubleheader Friday at 4:30 p.m. and a single game Saturday at noon, if needed.
The Alexandria-Jacksonville rivalry is not one to be taken lightly. Both sides say on or off the field, there are no friendships between the two teams. And on the baseball field, the competitiveness is on another level from most matchups around the county.
“We’re so evenly matched you have to play well that day or you’re going to get beaten,” Alexandria senior Logan Doss said. “Anyone can win.”
Jacksonville senior Shed Long remembers year-by-year how each series went with Alexandria, with the Golden Eagles sweeping the series last season and in 2010 and splitting in 2011. Jacksonville also defeated the Valley Cubs in the semifinals of the county tournament in each of those three years as well.
But the Golden Eagles hadn’t made the playoffs since 2010, and Alexandria got the best of Jacksonville that year. Jacksonville, the area champions, met Alexandria in the second round of the playoffs. The Valley Cubs advanced, not the Golden Eagles.
“They’re in the shoes we were in in 2010,” Doss said. “We beat Haleyville, the defending state champs, and they beat the defending state champs, Guntersville. We played at their place, and this year they’re playing at our place.”
There’s also no love in football and basketball between these two, either.
Since Jacksonville returned to Class 4A in 1993 and became a region opponent of Alexandria, the Valley Cubs have won all but two of the games. The Valley Cubs’ 28-7 win last year also won the region.
“It was a big win because it was for the region, but even if the game didn’t have any playoff implications it would still be a big win,” Alexandria football coach Frank Tucker said. “Both teams get up for each other, and it’s something that makes high school sports special.”
But basketball was another story last season.
Not only did Jacksonville defeat Alexandria three times on the hard court, but guard Des Curry silenced the Valley Cubs’ gym with a buzzer-beater before scoring his 1,000th career point in a big win at home.
“I’ve had a decent record coaching against Alexandria because I respect them,” former Jacksonville boys basketball coach Anthony Kingston said. “I don’t like them, but I respect them because they never quit.”
For the trifecta, the Golden Eagles ended Alexandria’s season in the Class 4A, Area 11 tournament.
But on the baseball field, the teams are more evenly matched than in the other two sports. Following the county tournament, Alexandria won game one of the regular-season series to clinch the area championship, and Jacksonville won game two to clinch a spot in the playoffs.
“It would have been nice if we would have won both,” Wells said. “It’s been lingering around in the back of my head.”
But on Friday, previous games are simply afterthoughts.
“We’re just trying to go one game at a time,” Jacksonville baseball coach David Deerman said. “It’s game-by-game. It doesn’t really matter in baseball because it’s day-by-day.”
And with the Valley Cubs hosting the games, Shaw would like for the expected large crowd to help his team. But Doss and Wells said they’re avoiding the talk around school about the series.
“I think we and they are two of the top teams in the north, and I just hate that we have to play in the second round,” Shaw said. “It used to be that we wouldn’t play until the semifinals, but they changed it a few years back.
“But we’re preparing like they’re any other team, but it was just a little easier scouting them.”
But when the first pitch is thrown, it’s going to be more intense than any other playoff matchup because it’s not just another game — it’s a rivalry.
“If you’re going to have a scoreboard up, it’s going to be intense,” Tucker said. “And every field has a scoreboard up.”
Sports Writer Brandon Miller: 256-235-3575. On Twitter @bmiller_star.