It's almost impossible to talk about the Region's best football rivalries of all time without mentioning Hobart, Andrean, Portage, Crown Point or Merrillville.
But today, that's exactly what I'm going to do. Because it's a cold, hard fact.
The greatest grid shoving match of all time is the one between Lowell and Griffith. Period.
And if you don't believe me, come to The Inferno tonight to watch the Red Devils and Panthers compete for a sectional championship. If you can find a seat, you will see a mirrored reality.
Both communities are blue-collar and love football. Thermoses are filled with coffee or perhaps something else. Flannel shirts and steel-toed boots will be donned. Players throughout the generations that wore the black and red or the gold and black are tough, no-nonsense guys who compete with will and enthusiasm.
The emotion in this series that first kicked off in 1934 and hasn't stopped yet is off the charts. And in this age of sportsmanship, this rivalry is old-school. Historically the people in these programs usually haven't liked each other very much. Hatred is too strong of a word, but at All-Area photo shoots through the years the Panthers and Red Devils usually made sure there was a lot of distance between themselves.
Former Lowell coach Kirk Kennedy complained about the Panthers in pregame standing at midfield and shouting bad things at the Red Devils. Only a few know if such things actually happened.
And in 2007, the IHSAA actually investigated a claim by Lowell that former Griffith coach Russ Radtke stormed across the field after a 28-27 overtime win in Lowell and made a bad gesture toward the crowd and yelled bad things at the Lowell sidelines. The IHSAA found on evidence that anything happened but some in Lowell still are sure it did.
With Radtke and Kennedy now at other places, the tone on the sidelines have lessened a bit in recent years. Well, sort of.
"We've been talking about this game since Day 1," Griffith senior Anthony Compton said. "We knew it was going to happen."
"The last thing we want is for our careers to end on our field against Griffith," Lowell senior Jordan Jusevitch added.
Griffith coach Ben Geffert actually left the game against Lowell in 2004 because of a stress fracture in his back. That's how hard-hitting this rivalry can be. Two of his coaches, Mark Reid Sr. and Mark Reid Jr., played and coached at Lowell. "Junior" was on Lowell's 2009 team, with dad coaching, that beat the Panthers in the sectional final.
How, they're happily wearing black and gold.
"If I was a fan this is the game I'd want to be at," Geffert said. "It's Griffith-Lowell. It doesn't get much better than this."
Lowell coach Keith Kilmer got his first sectional win in 2014. Against Griffith. He had been 0-4 in sectional games up until that win. Now, he's hoping to win his fourth straight sectional championship. Against Griffith.
"Our kids have been looking at the Griffith game for a long time," Kilmer said. "Everyone forgets. The last time we played them they beat us."
There is no question the "RDP" chant will be loud and the Devils will be fired up to play.
It is also guaranteed that the Panthers will be smoking from their nostrils, too. Since they moved to the Greater South Shore Conference they've been playing with a chip on their shoulders.
They believe no one believes they're any good because of their schedule this year. And they are right to some degree.
Who can wait for tonight's game? Blow the whistle now.
And here's where this thing gets crazier. If Lowell wins the Devils will like host Russ Radtke's New Prairie team in next week's regional.
If Griffith wins the Panthers will likely host their old coach's team.
Put the shish kabobs on the grill. This is going to be a ton of fun.