GREENSBORO, N.C. — The Highland Springs football team will travel 205 miles to Marion Kirby Stadium in Greensboro on Friday to oppose Page High School. A year later, Page will make the return trip. Both sides hope they’ve found good competition, because playing the game won’t come cheap.
Highland Springs athletics director Rick Lilly said the school would spend $7,500 to $8,500 on chartered buses, meals and other expenses to make the trip. The athletic director at Page, Matt Harder, said he won’t be able to calculate its travel expenses for the return game until next year.
Each school will keep the gate receipts from its home game, and “we’re going to provide food for them after the game, and they’ll do the same for us next year,” Harder said.
“We’re paying ($4,500) for the buses out of the athletics budget,” Lilly said of today’s trip to Greensboro, “and coach [Loren] Johnson has gotten donations to take care of the pregame meal and other expenses.”
Highland Springs also will bring its cheerleaders and band, and the band will stay overnight in Greensboro before heading to Durham early Saturday for the Block It Up Battle of the Bands at N.C. Central.
“It will be bands from all over and exhibition performances from some [Historically Black Colleges and Universities],” Lilly said. “It will be a pretty neat deal for the band to come down, and when I pitched this to our band director, he said, ‘I love it!’ ”
The traveling party will leave about 10 a.m. and miss some classes, and Lilly said he is aware there will be a “loss of instructional time when we go on the road.” Harder said Page’s players will attend at least their first two classes and possibly their third on the Friday they travel to Highland Springs.
The Pirates will make that trip to Virginia next year to face the Springers, but the game will not be played at Highland Springs. The high school is being replaced by a new building that will be constructed adjacent to the Springers’ football stadium. That will displace the team for at least the 2020 season, which means the Page game likely will be played at nearby Varina High or Henrico High, Lilly said.
Page’s coach and AD discussed the possibility of the Pirates staying overnight in the Richmond area and touring some college campuses after next year’s game. The additional expenses “would be handled though fundraising,” Harder said.
“It’s still something we’re very much interested in doing,” he said. “I think it would be a great enrichment experience for our kids.
“Ideally, we’d like to take everybody. It would be great for the school, for our band and cheerleaders. That’s something we’ll figure out in the winter.”
Highland Springs, which has won four consecutive state titles, has become a victim of its own success. Finding opponents willing to play becomes tougher as a team becomes more dominant. Highland Springs opened this season against Avalon of Wheaton, Md., and its administration had “conversations with schools in California, Florida, New Jersey,” Lilly said.
“It was a combination of not being able to find appropriate competition locally and schools either not having an opening in their schedule or the dates didn’t work out,” Lilly said. “With our recent success, there’s a limited supply of schools that see this as a good fit for them.”
With most of the other options exhausted for both schools, Page coach Jared Rolfes connected with Highland Springs coach Loren Johnson through the FootballScoop.com website’s message board for teams seeking games. After they discussed the details, Harder and Lilly finalized the deal.
The Pirates certainly didn’t schedule Highland Springs because they were looking for an easy game. The Springers have lost only three games in four years. They go into this year’s game ranked No. 1 in Virginia by MaxPreps.
“The tradition here is that we try to play a tough schedule every year,” Harder said when the series was initially announced. “Highland Springs just adds to that and is a storied program. We’re excited about it. It definitely will be a challenge, but it should be a great experience for our students, our coaches and our school.”