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Big games bring out the best

It came with the hype of Pacquiao-Mayweather and it will be remembered as if it was Ali-Frazier.

And like the eventual “Thrilla in Manilla,” Steubenville-St.Clairsville could turn into a trilogy that will be treasured for generations.

For their first-ever meeting, Big Red and the Red Devils brought an overflow, standing room only crowd to the St. C campus on Thursday and both teams performed admirably in a playoff-like atmosphere.

Thing is, this match up could be a postseason tilt three weeks from now. Steubenville (the No. 1 team in Div. IV, Region 13) and St. Clairsville (the No. 3 team in Div. IV, Region 13) could do battle again with a regional title on the line.

That would be Round 2 of this clash of the two top programs in the Ohio Valley. Next October in Harding Stadium, it will be Round III. Like Ali-Frazier, this series comes with attention-gaining superlatives.

In 1971, there was “The Fight of the Century” won by Joe Frazier.

Last week, was the “Meetin’ of Unbeatens” won by Big Red.

In 1974, there was “Super Fight II” won by Muhammad Ali.

On Nov. 21, there could be the “Regional Rivalry” at a neutral sit with a state semifinal berth on the line.

Ali won the third fight against Frazier in 1975, billed as the “Thrilla in Manilla.” In 2016, Steubenville and St. Clairsville will have a “Hoedown at Harding” for another regular season tilt that will no doubt bring the 6,500-plus that was in attendance on Thursday at Red Devil Stadium.

The crowd will be much bigger than that at Harding Stadium on Saturday. It’s another dream match up coming to reality as Indian Creek travels a mere four miles, one town over, to take on Big Red for the first round of the OHSAA playoffs.

No matter the outcome, it’s a great chance for the fanbases of both teams to come together and support their schools in a respective manner. A lot of these kids have grown up with each other and continue to behave in a civic manner.

It will be an opportunity for younger generations to look up to their elders as they, too, yearn to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

That was part of the beauty of last week’s game in St. Clairsville.

“If you’re a kid sitting in the bleachers screaming about wanting to be a Red Devil, you’ve got to want to play in an atmosphere like this,” St. Clairsville coach Brett McLean said following his team’s 27-0 loss to Big Red.

I see it every week at high school stadiums. Whether I’m at Harding Stadium, Kettlewell Stadium, Jimmy Carey Stadium, Clark Hinkle Stadium or Cartwright Field, there is a host of middle school children wearing their team colors, playing catch underneath the bleachers. As the years go by, it will be those same youngsters donning the big boy pads and jerseys, playing on the big boy fields in front of thousands of fans.

The cycle never stops. It will keep spinning this weekend, through the playoffs and for many years to come.

(Peaslee, a Weirton resident, is a sports writer for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. He can be contacted at mpeaslee@heraldstaronline.com and followed on Twitter at @thempeas)