It started in September of 1981. Forty-three games later it's still the biggest game of the season in the city. One of the few people to have been on both sides of the Aiken vs. South Aiken football rivalry says it has actually intensified.
"In the very beginning there was a tremendous talk for the rivalry already even though we hadn't played," said Eddie Buck, who coached at both Aiken and South Aiken High school and was on the sidelines for the first game. "I've never seen anything that could start so quick and stay at that same level over so many years regardless of the win-loss record."
The rivalry has several unique aspects about it, starting with the first game.
South Aiken, in its first year of existence, knocked off Aiken for a 15-3 victory in a game which had a fairly friendly atmosphere due to the fact so many of the fans and players had been attending the same school up until a little before that. Buck, who was the Aiken head coach at the time, said despite the familiarity, the game set the tone for a fierce rivalry.
"There's no question about that," Buck said. "That put it in motion right there."
The first points
South Aiken won the first game of the rivalry, but it was Aiken kicker Neal Richardson who scored the first points of the rivalry in 1981. Richardson made a 22-yard field goal for the Hornets' only points in the first game.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s the rivalry got to the point were it was noticeably one-sided, with Aiken winning 14 straight meetings from 1994-2006. That's the longest streak by either team in the series.
South Aiken's longest win streak in the rivalry was three games from 1990-1991 – the teams played twice in both seasons.
Richardson isn't the only Aiken kicker who's name is remembered when it comes to the rivalry. Calder Reardon kicked game-winning field goals in the 2002 and 2003 games. As a junior he kicked a 21-yarder in overtime to give Aiken a 13-10 win. The next season he made a 22-yarder with 3:38 left to play in the Hornets' 10-7 victory.
The recent meetings between the two teams have been high-scoring affairs. The past three games, there's been an average of 69 combined points scored in the game. The 2015 game was the highest scoring game of the rivalry, with the teams combining for 91 points in a 57-34 Aiken victory.
Closer than you'd think
To Buck's point, while Aiken has the better record in the rivalry with a 31-12 series lead, many of the games have been competitive.
"It doesn't matter if one team has three or four all-stars or Division I ball players on it, it's still anyone's ballgame," Buck said.
Twenty of the games have been decided by fewer than eight points.
"The rivalry is still there, it's better than it ever was, and it'll always be there," Buck said.