Hanging on a wall high above the desk of Byrd coach Mike Suggs is a collage of photos from one of his teams several years ago. Prominent among the pictures is one of Captain Shreve coach Bryant Sepulvado getting his shoulder taped.
Sepulvado played for Suggs at Byrd and coached on his staff for several seasons. Captain Shreve principal Ginger Gustavson was an assistant principal on Byrd principal Jerry Badgley’s staff before becoming a confirmed Gator.
The late Richard Lary, Shreve’s predecessor to Sepulvado, was on Suggs’ staff and Lary’s predecessor at Shreve was Ken Ivy, who was Suggs’ football coach at Southwood.
The ties between Captain Shreve and Byrd, which meet for the 39th time at 7 p.m. Thursday night at Lee Hedges Stadium, run deep. No one affiliated with either school has to ask when this week is coming around. It’s ingrained in their DNA at birth. And the rivalry has spawned pranks in the past that the administrations at both schools would just as soon forget.
Badgley and Gustavson had talks with their students this week reminding them what is and isn’t acceptable behavior.
“Rivalries are great because it puts kids in the stands and it gets the fans excited about the game. That helps support the football programs,” Badgley said. “But we want to try to keep the negative things to a minimum. The interesting thing this year is that the things that have happened, have happened earlier in the day. So, I guess that means parents are keeping their students at home more. The kids just moved up their clock earlier.”
The cheerleaders from both schools met at the Chick-fil-A on Youree Drive Monday to discuss ideas they could employ to encourage having fun without crossing the line.
The game itself could be interesting with the Gators (3-0) entering the contest undefeated and the Jackets (0-3) coming in looking for a win. It’s believed the roles are reversed in this way for the first time since the schools squared off in 1967.
That first year, Shreve entered the game 0-2, while the Jackets were 2-0 and Byrd rolled to a 48-0 win. In 1985, the teams had the same records as this year, but they didn’t meet that season.
Shreve has defeated Byrd on the field just twice in the last 22 years and one of those wins was later deemed a forfeit by the LHSAA. The Jackets are entering the game missing 12 starters due to injury, but Suggs said the players are remaining upbeat.
“There haven’t been any problems and the kids we have are working hard. We are just having to fight inexperience,” Suggs said.
The Gators are playing at a high level, so the game should be fun for the fans of both.
“Byrd is still a good team, but I have faith in our kids, who have been focused all week,” Sepulvado said. “Our kids are excited, cautious, but not nervous. They are ready to play.”
That sentiment was echoed by Shreve’s stellar wide receiver Cam Davis, who has 19 receptions for 255 yards and three scores while reveling in holding his head high around campus these days.
“We know that even though we’re 3-0 we can’t be overconfident,” Davis said. “Everybody around our school is hyped, and we’re getting a lot more support. It’s been amazing, so I’m grateful and humble.”
Byrd will suit up just one returning starter from last year’s team against the Gators and senior Shimorye Hampton said his team has to compete harder than it has in the first three games of the season.
“The coaches come up with a game plan every week and we have to go out and trust it and have leadership from the seniors,” said Hampton, who said winning three times against the Gators has been his fondest memory in the series. “And I’m planning on keeping that trend.”
Former Captain Shreve principal Sandra McCalla didn’t see a lot of football success against Byrd during her tenure, but she enjoyed the rivalry and said she remembers one year in particular. In 1994 the Gators went 1-9 under former coach Alden Reeves.
“But that one win was against Byrd,” McCalla said. “A win is a win is a win.”