Hemphill, West Sabine looking for year-long bragging rights in Friday’s Pine Cone Bowl
SABINE COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - The Hemphill Hornets and West Sabine Tigers will put their friendships and county unity to the side Friday night when the two schools play for the Pine Cone Bowl.
The two schools have made the annual contest a game of bragging rights throughout the years. With a population of 10,471, Sabine County is divided between the two schools. Hemphill, out of the 3A classification has won 26 contests between the two schools dating back to 1968. West Sabine has 15 victories, with the most recent coming in 2016.
The name of the game comes from the dense forest lands, including the Sabine National Forest, in Sabine County.
“Oh Lord there are a bunch of pine trees,” West Sabine head coach Danny Bragg said. “There is probably 100:1 pine trees to people.”
The two schools are just 10 minutes apart. Families are divided between the two schools, with cousins and even sometimes siblings lining up across from each other. Parents for student-athletes at one school will work with parents of student-athletes from the other school. It is a game that brings out pride in everyone from the county. The question is what color is that pride shown in, Hornet green or Tiger orange?
“I grew up watching it and now it is my time to keep it over here,” Hemphill running back Jammarrious Hall said. “Everyone on this team wants to make sure we win and keep it in our city.”
For years the athletes that take the field dream about being in the game.
“This game is really special,” West Sabine quarterback Quentin Smith said. “I watched it as a kid since I was a manager since elementary school. It is special to get to be out here for it.”
Danny Bragg played in this game for West Sabine. He has coached in the game as an assistant coach for both schools and is now the head coach at West Sabine.
“I have coached with most of them and am really good friends with all of them,” Bragg said. “This week we kind of keep our distance. Probably on Friday or Saturday we will be on good terms but up until then we are trying to stay focused. they are trying to stay focused. We don’t want to let loose lips sink ships.”
On the other sideline Tod Stark will lead Hemphill into action. Stark and Brag were on staff together last year at Hemphill under Gary Vanya. Vanya came out of retirement to coach at West Sabine with Bragg when he was in need of one more coach. Stark knows that the game means a lot to both communities after also being the head coach previously at West Sabine for 14 years. Stark is trying to bring some element of surprise to the game.
“I know what it is like on each side,” Stark said. “People get real excited for this game. There will be a lot of people there. I probably won’t talk on Saturday. I doubt Bragg would want to as well. The following week we will be back on talking terms.”
While mostly peaceful the rivalry has seen its fair share of moments off the field. In 2010, the West Sabine Tiger statue had its tongue ripped out and forks were jabbed into the field at West Sabine. The Hemphill players that year denied they did anything.
The game has no bearing on the playoff picture for the two schools. What it does do is give one group of players the right to vocally brag about the game results.
“This game holds a lot of weight,” Hemphill tight end Dane Bundy said. “If we win we are talking trash after the game, not during the game. I know people over there I want to brag to the entire season.”
The feeling on the west side of the county is the same.
“They know they are going to hear me for the rest of the year,” Smith said. "
Kickoff between the two schools is set for 7 p.m. at West Sabine High School.
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