SEBRING - As Avon Park and Sebring gear up for their annual spring football game against each other this Friday, the two communities have already faced off in five games of youth football that started last Thursday.
Though the results have no bearing on the regular season that will start later this year, the games exhibited showed the same intensity and pride as the county rivals battled.
They two split games on Thursday night as the Avon Park Pee Wees won the first game over the Sebring Pee Wee squad by a score of 14-0.
The Seniors took the field for the nightcap as Sebring beat Avon Park 20-0.
On Saturday morning, they started with the flag football teams in the first of three games between Sebring and Avon Park.
The Avon Park youngsters took a commanding 14-0 lead into halftime off of a first quarter touchdown run by EJ Williams for 20 yards and a second quarter 3-yard touchdown run by Chris Martin.
Sebring got back into the game in the third quarter when Dajuan Austin busted through the line and scored on 30-yard run. The extra point failed as the littlest Red Devils held a 14-6 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Though they played solid football, the youngest players in the league can still make some mistakes that could make the football follies.
Earlier in the game the Sebring offense had pulled the flag off their own running back.
In the fourth quarter, Avon Park's Jayshon Evans brought up memories of the Minnesota Vikings Jim Marshall. Marshall once picked up a fumble and ran 70 yards into his own end zone for what he thought was a touchdown, but ended up being a safety for the other team.
Evans already had a couple of long runs, one for a touchdown, called back because of penalties. On the first play of the fourth quarter with Avon Park on their own 15-yard line, Evans was handed the ball and swept to the left.
As he reached the edge to make his cut, which should have been to the right, he cut left and ran 15 yards into the end zone then gave the ball back to the referee in triumphant style not realizing he just scored two points for the other team.
Despite the mishap, Avon Park held on to win the first game of the day 14-8.
The second game featured the Mitey Mites. Avon Park, the current three-time Super Bowl champions going up against a Sebring team that feels they have the ability to take that title away.
Defense controlled most of the first half with the game being scoreless with about a minute left in the half. With the ball on their own 25, Sebring's Gregory Smith found daylight on a right side sweep.
Smith broke down the sideline and scored on a 75-yard touchdown run to give Sebring a 7-0 half time lead.
Sebring increased to lead to 9-0 when they tackled the Avon Park quarterback in the end zone half way through the third quarter.
The Blue Streaks basically put the game out of reach with 3 minutes left in the game when Davonnie Trent scored on a 2-yard run up the middle to make the score 16-0.
Avon Park avoided the shutout with less than a minute left in the game when Zarian Smith scored on a 48-yard touchdown run to make the final score 16-6 when the extra point failed.
With the Red Devils and Blue Streaks splitting the first four games, it was only appropriate that the final game be decided in an overtime thriller in the junior game.
Sebring jumped out of the gate quickly to score on their first drive that was highlighted by a 45-yard touchdown run by Ryan Brown to give the Blue Streaks an early 6-0 lead.
The score remained 6-0 until Avon Park's opening drive in the third quarter when Logan Page connected with Ricky Lovette for a 75-yard touchdown pass to tie the score at 6.
Sebring threatened late in the game, inside the Avon Park 5-yard line with a minute left in regulation, but the Red Devil defense held not only once but twice.
Avon Park forced a turnover on downs to get the ball back, but Sebring's defensive end, Alvin Tumblin, shot around the edge to blindside Avon Park's quarterback to force a fumble that was recovered by Sebring.
Inside the Avon Park 10-yard line, Sebring quarterback Devion Littles threw a pass to Tumblin, who outjumped the Red Devil defender to make the catch, but was tackled inside the one-foot line as time ran out to force overtime.
The Blue Streaks got the ball first in overtime and after two great defensive stands, the Red Devils were unable to stop the Blue Streak offense as Littles carried the ball on three consecutive runs to score on a 1-yard run to put Sebring up 13-6.
Avon Park was not able to match the score on its overtime possession as Sebring held on to win the junior game 13-6.
Though it is only spring football games, if these games are any indication of the upcoming youth football season, both Sebring and Avon Park should be a force to deal with again at all five levels and both organization fully expect to see each other in the playoffs.
Last year, Avon Park and Sebring met in three playoff games, Avon Park won two. Each ended up having a Super Bowl champion; Sebring won the Flag age group and Avon Park won the Mitey Mite age group.