Football - Mon, Aug. 19, 2013
For two male college roommates, competition is pretty normal and heightened when they are teammates. Or so was the case in the early 2000s at Georgetown College with football players T.J. Kramer and David Penland.
"We were roommates, and we were both wide receivers," Kramer said. "We were always very competitive and really good friends."
At the time, Kramer liked to talk up his high school alma mater to Penland, a Florida native. The Kentucky native played for 22-time Kentucky High School Athletic Association state champion Highlands. The Bluebirds are going for a seventh straight crown in season 2013.
But, the two never thought they would see their respective alma maters get a chance to battle it out on the gridiron.
Now Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown has given the old roommates a renewed sense of competition. The 25-game event that spans nine-days in August has become a staple for kicking off high school football in Ohio. Highlands has always been on the radar as one of the teams to play in it, but various issues have made it impossible.
But as Penland looked for one last game and learned that Highland's coach Dave Mueller was doing the same, it appeared to be a match too perfect to pass up, even for television coverage.
The past three years, the Showdown has had one of its games on ESPN thanks to organizer Tom Gamble of In-Game Sports Marketing's connection with ESPN.
Highlands rich tradition and UC coming off its first-ever state title made this the match-up to see, airing 3:30 pm Saturday.
"I never thought this would happen," Kramer said. "The furthest away we've played are some teams from Ohio, but to have a team from Florida come up here and get a chance to have both our schools showcased on national television. This is exciting all the way around."
Penland knows Highlands' tradition and even watched them play several games over the course of his four years at Georgetown. He knows this is a challenge for his team.
"They are good and were good when I was in college. T.J. always reminded me of that," Penland said with a laugh. "It will be a big first game of the season. There is extra pressure. We don't want to get embarrassed, but I think it is motivation as we go through preseason because usually a first game is kind of a warm-up. Not this year. We have to be ready to play."
Penland will also get a chance to show off Georgetown as he plans to bring his team through the Kentucky town and even practice at Toyota Stadium.
"This is the farthest trip we've ever made for a game, but it should be a lot of fun," the coach said. "We are going to practice in Georgetown. I get to show my players what I did for four years. This trip will be sort of a college feel on the high school level."
With Kramer still in Ft. Thomas and numerous teammates sprinkled throughout the northern and central Kentucky area, Penland expects to see lots of friendly faces in the Highlands stands. The game will be held at the Bluebirds stadium, almost guaranteeing a packed house for the Showdown.
"It should be a great atmosphere and a lot of fun," Penland said. "I know a lot of the guys are going to come and hopefully we can catch up a bit before that night.
"We are really looking forward to this. This is a great opportunity for both programs."