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Cummings, Williams football fans likely to be disappointed by future football schedule regarding the two in-town rivals

By Bob Sutton

Special to The Alamance News

Football teams from Cummings and Williams high schools won’t meet for the next two seasons after North Carolina High School Athletic Association realignment created a crammed schedule and not much flexibility.

The only football-playing high schools in Burlington have had a long-standing and competitive rivalry, and each owns multiple state championships.

Burlington Memorial Stadium, home of Williams High School Bulldogs, won’t see any action with arch-rival Cummings Cavaliers during 2023 or 2024 season.   (And they won’t be playing each other at Cummings, either.)

“I hate it [having no games with arch-rival Williams over next two seasons], and I think everybody hates it.”

– Cummings football coach David Grimm

 

“We exhausted every effort. We met. We called. We Zoomed.”

– Williams football coach Patrick Stokes

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“I hate it, and I think everybody hates it,” Cummings coach David Grimm said.

Williams coach Patrick Stokes and Grimm said the schools worked for weeks to try to find a solution to the schedule dilemma, but nothing could be worked out.

“We exhausted every effort,” Stokes said. “We met. We called. We Zoomed.”

The teams, who most recently met in season openers, had planned to move the 2023 and 2024 meetings to the fourth week of the season.

That went awry in December when the NCHSAA made changes in conference alignments for the next two years.

The all-time series is tied 26-26 after Cummings won in each of the past two seasons. The rivalry began in 1970 and the teams met annually until the pandemic interrupted that regularity.

The schools didn’t meet in 2020, when that season was moved to winter/spring 2021 because of the pandemic.

Teams were mostly restricted to conference games with reduced schedules, and that was the case for Williams as it was maxed out with league games. Cummings was in a conference with fewer football-playing schools, so it was permitted to find non-league games.

A new four-year alignment cycle began in August 2021, putting Cummings in a league with more schools.

The latest scheduling glitch largely came with December’s decision when the Mid-Carolina Conference, with Cummings as a member, expanded from seven to nine schools. NCHSAA realignment sent Northwood from Class 3-A to Class 2-A and, coupled with the addition of soon-to-open Southeast Alamance, the conference grew.

“We had no idea this was going to happen,” Grimm said. “If all of us had a crystal ball. . . ”

That left the Cavaliers with only two non-league dates. Williams remains in the seven-team Central Carolina 3-A Conference, though it had scheduling tweaks to make because Southern Alamance, which had been a non-conference foe as a Class 4-A team, was shifted to Class 3-A and will join the league to replace Northwood.

Cummings and Williams were set to move their meeting to the season’s fourth week so classes would be in session for the week of the game.

“It was going to be a fun thing,” Stokes said. “Really revitalizing the rivalry in the halls of the schools.”

Williams, which already had to make tweaks to replace Southern on its non-conference docket, had contracts in place for a couple of games. Then the Bulldogs suddenly had a hole on Week 4 of their slate.

“We were set,” Stokes said. “Then the state made their change and we were stuck without a Week 4 game. I had to go find a game.”

Cummings will open at home against Eden Morehead and then continue a series by visiting Western Alamance the next week.

Williams will begin the season with road games at Northwest Guilford and Eastern Guilford followed by home games against Southern Durham and Eden Morehead before embarking on its Central Carolina 3-A Conference schedule.

A Cummings-Williams meeting in 2023 likely would have drawn tremendous attention given that Cummings running back Jonathan Paylor, who has received widespread recruiting attention from major colleges, will be in his senior season.

Cummings Running Back Jonathan Paylor, pictured from after a game last fall.

Williams has been on the rise after back-to-back years with a victory in the state playoffs, winning eight games in 2022. Versatile Dan Mahan, expected to move to quarterback for the upcoming season, has been a recruiting target and recently returned from QB Country’s camp in Mobile, Alabama, where he was selected as co-Most Valuable Player earlier this month among participants from the Class of 2025.

Dan Mahan

Cummings opened the 2021 fall season by defeating the visiting Bulldogs 32-25 to end Williams’ eight-game winning streak in the series. Last August in a season-opening game at Burlington Memorial Stadium on the Williams campus, Cummings won 22-20.

“The last two years have been nip and tuck,” Stokes said.

Stokes is a Williams alum. Grimm spent nine years as coach at Turrentine Middle School, which is the feeder school for Williams, before joining the staff at Cummings and then becoming the head coach.

“We’ll let this fester,” Grimm said of the rivalry. “We’ll be back at it in two years.”

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