For the last three weeks, I’ve had that feeling that I knew it was coming, but I was still surprised.

This fall, I’ve been thinking about the line from the Rocky movie franchise, “Folks, get ready for World War III.”

This rivalry between Kearney and Smithville has been brewing for a while, but now it is approaching a fast boil.

The two schools, separated by just 14 miles of Highway 92, both seem to be good at everything.

That was fun enough when the Warriors were in the Midland Empire Conference. Now, with Smithville’s jump to the Greater Kansas City Suburban Blue Conference, things are — as they say — getting real.

This football season, we had a three-way tie atop the league (with Platte County) and the Warriors won two tough games over the Bulldogs that ESPN would put on “instant classic” rotation if they were college contests.

In boys soccer, Kearney emerged as the victor with a district championship over Smithville that was tough-won.

Smithville has the upper hand in cross country, while Kearney has been a state power in swim and dive.

That’s just fall.

Stay tuned.

The wrestling season is going to be a fun one.

Last year, Smithville’s Brian Boyd and Kearney’s Chopper Mordecai waged an epic battle at 195 pounds. They competed in the finals at district and at state.

Boyd came out with wins both times, but this matchup is as close as any I’ve ever seen on a mat.

Take the macro view and you realize both teams enter the season expecting to bring home a souvenir from the state tournament in Columbia.

Last year, Kearney won the team title. Smithville finished fourth.

Come spring, both teams will clash in baseball and track and field with high-achieving teams.

It isn’t just on the field that this rivalry takes flight.

These are two passionate fan bases that have the youngest of fans wearing Warriors and Bulldogs gear right out of the gate.

They have passionate parents and booster clubs that I would put up against any in the state.

And, boy, do they like to win. If it’s against the other one, it is all the sweeter.

For a sportswriter, it’s gold. For fans, it is huge fun. For the coaches and athletes, it fuels ever higher aspirations and achievements.

And the fact is, it is all in good sportsmanship.

After the football district semifinal I watched Boyd and Mordecai shake hands and share a moment of mutual respect.

These schools are two heavyweights just getting started on years of “main events.”

Sports Editor Thom Hanrahan can be reached at thom.hanrahan@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6643.

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