DALLAS — Rivalry. An equal mix of history, respect, and hatred.
The rivalries across North Texas are special for so many different reasons, but familiarity tops the list.
"You've got kids that have grown up playing little league football together," Cedar Hill head football coach Carlos Lynn said. "They go to the same churches."
An annual sharing of paint, and claiming of hardware. It's football at it's finest, and most sacred.
"It's human nature to want to say 'we're the best in town,'" said Rockwall-Heath head coach Mike Spradlin. "And for a year, you get to do that."
But with Cedar Hill and Desoto set to play their latest installment of the Battle of Belt Line at Eagle Stadium on Friday, we wondered...
What's the best high school football rivalry in North Texas?
"Hah," Dave Henigan, the head coach at Denton Ryan, appropriately laughed at us for even considering tackling this subject. "I don't know. I mean -- there's a lot of good ones."
Oh, there's a ton of good ones. It's nearly impossible to narrow it down. But for us, the top spot came down to two games.
Desoto-Cedar Hill or Ennis-Waxahachie.
"The best HS football rivalry in North Texas is without a doubt, Cedar Hill vs. Desoto," Lynn said. "It's the Battle of Belt Line."
He's not biased at all, right?
In truth, we heard that from a few coaches. And it makes sense -- to everyone that is involved in their respective game, it's the biggest thing going. And in their towns, it really is. That's what makes these so special.
But we wanted to decide on just one. And we'll also rank the Top 10.
The Battle of Belt Line has the recent success edge, with four state titles between the two in the last 20 years. But Ennis-Waxahachie just played for the 100th time, last month.
"The fact that it has gone on for 100 years, and there's still so many people that live in Waxahachie and Ennis that can remember playing each other, and going to the games," Ennis head coach Sam Harrell said, "it's just so important to the community."
After a lot of research and a LOT of talking... our No. 1 is Ennis-Waxahachie. So much history, and it's so good, to this day.
"100 years worth of football games, there's something to be said for that."
There's nothing like a rivalry game. Familiarity. Contempt. And passion.
"A lot of these kids are friends," Lynn said. "For one week out of the year... it's on."
And another chapter of history is written.
Here's our list of the Top 10 High School Football Rivalries across North Texas:
1. Ennis vs. Waxahachie: They've now played each other 100 times in the "Battle of 287." They've been playing this game since 1908, and they've played every year since 1939. In this past September's game, Ennis won a thriller in overtime, 22-21. Ennis head coach Sam Harrell, who has coached in 22 of those 100 games, says he tries to tell his players that the game doesn't matter as much, since it's no longer a district game, and therefore doesn't impact their playoff standing. We doubt he's been successful in delivering that message, because as he told us, the whole rest of the town is too busy telling the kids that it's the only game on the schedule that even matters.
ALL-TIME: Waxahachie leads the series, 51-47-2
SINCE 2010: The series is tied, 6-6
2. Desoto vs. Cedar Hill: Of all the games on the list, this game features the two programs with the most recent state championship pedigree. The two teams that comprise "The Battle of Belt Line" have claimed four titles between the two programs since the turn of the century. If we were only considering recent success, fire, and passion -- this game would top the list. The only thing it's missing is the long-term history component. If you're going to pick only one game to go see, this is the one.
ALL-TIME: Desoto leads the series, 19-16
SINCE 2010: Desoto leads the series, 6-5
Note: You can watch this year's "Battle of Belt Line" on the WFAA YouTube channel, Friday at 7:30. The broadcast of last year's game is below.
3. Carter vs. Kimball: "The Oak Cliff Super Bowl" had been played every single year since 1967, until cancellations due to COVID-19 stopped the streak. But the premier rivalry in Dallas ISD is one of the most storied rivalries in North Texas. Recently, the games have been low-scoring, defense-minded games. But the hey-day for this rivalry was in the '90s. They played to a scoreless tie in 1994, and had four other games that decade decided by just one score. "In the '90s, you couldn't get in those games," Cedar Hill head coach Carlos Lynn said. "Sprague Stadium was standing room only. The fire marshal had to turn people away."
ALL-TIME: Carter leads the series, 34-18-2
SINCE 2010: The series is tied, 5-5.
4. Euless Trinity vs. L.D. Bell: If we had compiled this list 20 years ago, Trinity vs. Bell would be #1. The history is robust, the atmosphere -- even today -- is intense, and it's everything a rivalry should be. Unfortunately, some of the sting is taken out of this game, by the long winning streak for Trinity. The Trojans haven't lost in this rivalry game since 1997.
ALL-TIME: Trinity leads the series, 37-14-2
SINCE 2010: Trinity leads the series, 12-0.
5. Grapevine vs. Colleyville Heritage: A relatively young rivalry, "The Battle for the Red Rail" started in 1996 when Colleyville Heritage opened up. But a pair of schools that share a district, and who have grown to become tremendous rivals. Grapevine has the long-term history edge, having claimed a pair of state titles in the '90s. But Heritage has the head-to-head edge.
ALL-TIME: still compiling... if you have the results for '98-'03, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
SINCE 2010: Heritage leads the series, 10-2.
6. Marcus vs. Lewisville: They've been playing "The Battle of the Ax" since 1986, and it's been a hotly-contested rivalry from the jump. Both teams have had long winning streaks in the series, and nearly a third of the meetings all-time have been decided by one score. Marcus is the team currently on a win-streak, having claimed 12 of the last 14 meetings. This year's game is on October 29th, and has a chance to decide the district champion.
ALL-TIME: Marcus leads the series, 20-15
SINCE 2010: Marcus leads the series, 9-2.
7. Plano vs. Plano East: This is another rivalry that likely would've been even higher on the list 20 years ago. The Plano schools have hit a bit of a lull in terms of state title contention of late, but that doesn't make the games between their programs matter any less to the kids on the roster, or the people around town. The two schools didn't play in 2020, but they are scheduled to play later this season, on October 22.
SINCE 2010: Plano leads the series, 7-3.
8. Denton Ryan vs. Denton Guyer: Easily the youngest rivalry on our list, but when it comes to recent state championship contention, these two programs are hard to contend with. Denton Ryan won a state title in 2020, while Guyer lost in the semifinals. In 2019, they both made it to their respective state title games. For essentially the entirety of both schools existence, they have been state powers. And when they meet up, it's always one of the best games happening around the state of Texas. Of the last five times they have played, four have been decided by a single score.
ALL-TIME: Ryan leads the series, 5-4.
9. Arlington vs. Arlington Lamar: These two schools have met every single year since 1971, and the margin separating the two is razor thin. Lamar has one more win than Arlington, and the two teams also tied in a game, back in 1984. All-time, through 50 meetings between the schools, only 137 points separate the two schools -- an average of just 2.7 points per game. This year, the two teams meet on October 29, as Arlington looks to pull even in the series.
ALL-TIME: Lamar leads, 25-24-1.
SINCE 2010: Arlington leads the series, 6-5.
10. Rockwall vs. Rockwall-Heath: The final game in our top 10 features the game that provided the game of the year in 2021. When Rockwall and Rockwall-Heath tussled on September 24th, they played to a 79-71 final score in two overtimes, as the Hawks claimed their first win in the series since 2017. Both teams amassed over 700 yards of total offense, and there were 21 touchdowns scored in the game. They've only been playing this matchup since 2008, after Heath opened in 2005. But if they keep playing games like that, this game will climb the list quickly.
ALL-TIME: Rockwall-Heath leads the series, 7-5.
How many of the ten games on our list have you seen in person?
Honorable Mention: We could go on with this list for another 1000 words and another 50 games, but 10 felt like a reasonable place to cut it off. But here are ten more rivalries that absolutely deserve honorable mention, as the next ten games you need to go see.
Desoto vs. Duncanville
Flower Mound vs. Flower Mound Marcus
Mesquite vs. North Mesquite
Celina vs. Pilot Point
Lincoln vs. Madison
Burleson vs. Burleson Centennial
Haltom vs. Richland
Argyle vs. Celina
Bridgeport vs. Decatur
Adamson vs. Sunset
Finally, a nod to the entire WFAA Sports department, who teamed up on this venture. This was a days long conversation throughout the department, drawing on the experience and wisdom of department members who have been on staff since the early 1980s, and have seen hundreds upon hundreds of high school football games, and taken in all the sights and sounds of these great rivalries through the years. Also, a shoutout to Brian Gosset, from our sister publication the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, who lent his counsel to this piece as well. And a h/t to texashighschoolfootballhistory.com, which provided invaluable data in compiling the series histories between these storied programs.