APPOMATTOX, Va. (WSET) — The lights are back on again for the "Battle of the Lantern" this Friday night.
The series between Rustburg and Appomattox has seen its fair share of swings since Gordon Bragg's Raiders defeated Hugh Pendelton's Red Devils, 19-0 in their first matchup back in 1965. And while recent fans will recognize Appomattox's dominance in the series -- winning six straight games against Rustburg from 2015-2021 -- the historical numbers heavily lean in favor of Rustburg, who looks to make it two straight wins over Appomattox in the Football Friday 'Game of the Week', sponsored by All Phase Roofing & Construction LLC.
The rivalry started in 1965, with the Raiders winning 7 of the first 8 matchups. Starting in 1973, however, and running until 2006, Rustburg dominated the matchup, going a combined 30-5-1. That includes a five year stretch from '87-91, where the Red Devils outscored the Raiders by a combined margin of 274 points to just 8 for Appomattox. That includes the first of two playoff matchups in the series history, with both going to the Red Devils (29-0 in 1987 playoffs, 14-7 in 1999 playoffs).
The series was paused from the 2007 season up through 2014. During that time, coach Doug Smith arrived in Appomattox, helping to change the Raiders' fortunes. When the 'Lantern' battle resumed in 2015, Appomattox was beginning a stretch of three straight state championships, going 44-1 over those 45 games. Despite strong Rustburg teams, including a 2016 Jack Baker-coached team that won 10 games en route to a region final appearance, Appomattox won the next 6 straight games, although not all were blowouts. The Raiders were held to under 20 points in three of the six games, some of the closest games Appomattox faced during that period.
With Burt Torrence leading the charge starting in 2021, Rustburg finally returned to the win column against their rivals up Route 460, as Marquavion Rosser scored the winning touchdown with under a minute left to claim a 27-20 win, as Rustburg returned to the postseason for the first time in 5 years.
If one thing is clear, round #52 of the "Battle of the Lantern" should prove to be just as entertaining as the previous 51. For full coverage of Appomattox vs. Rustburg, watch ABC13's Football Friday with Dave Walls this Friday night at 11:15pm.