Since there are no high school football games in Kentucky this week, I decided to write about what is perhaps the best high school football rivalry in the country. Pahokee (FL) and Glades Central (FL) will play Saturday night at 7 p.m. in Wellington, FL. The schools are in western Palm Beach County, 50 minutes away from the glitz and glamor of the actual city of Palm Beach.
When I was going to college in Florida back in the early 2000s, I picked up the USA Today and noticed a small public school on Lake Okeechobee, Glades Central High School, was rated as high as number 5 in the Super 25 National Rankings. From 1998-2001 they won 47 straight games and 3 consecutive state titles. They have 6 state championships in total. I witnessed one of them when Santonio Holmes, who went on win a Super Bowl with Steelers, helped Glades Central defeat Titusville Astronaut 20-10 at the Swamp in 2000. Current coach Rashad Jackson played on the 2006 state championship team.
It is remarkable that the town of Belle Glade, population 20,000, has produced such a tremendous amount of NFL talent. Kelvin Benjamin, Deonte Thompson, Ray McDonald, Jessie Hester, Fred Taylor, Reidel Anthony, and Holmes, just to name a few. The area, which is known for producing sugar cane and football players, features a lot of poverty and some people see football as the only way out. The players often train by catching rabbits, and the speed some of these guys have is unbelievable. Thompson once ran a 40 in 4.23 seconds! They also train year-round in the heat, making for more intense training than what people from cooler climates train in.
— adidas (@adidas) July 15, 2016
The school’s big rival, located 15 miles down the road in Pahokee, also has 6 state titles. Two of those titles came during a 28-game winning streak that led to a #6 national ranking in 2006-2007. Pahokee is a town of only about 6,000 people, but Pahokee High School has produced several NFL players including Janoris Jenkins, Anquan Boldin, Andrew Waters, and Rickey Jackson, just to name a few. Pahokee is coached by Anquan’s brother DJ Boldin. DJ graduated from Pahokee, played for Wake Forest and went on to be an assistant for the San Francisco 49ers.
The annual game between the teams is called the Muck Bowl, named for the swampy-type soil in the area. It has drawn up to 25,000 people, including national writers, to the small stadiums and been the subject of numerous feature stories, documentaries, and books. It is believed that over 60 players that have played in the game have went on to play in the NFL. The 2013 Super Bowl featured 4 players from Pahokee and 1 from Glades Central.
The pep rallies, tailgating, bands, and high attendance make the atmosphere around this game virtually unmatched anywhere in the country. The players and fans are so passionate about the game that winning the Muck Bowl trophy sometimes seems to be more important than winning a state championship. Back in 2001, USA Today rated Glades Central as one of the top 10 places in America to watch a high school football game in this article by Dennis Tuttle.
With fan attendance being very limited, it won’t have the same atmosphere, but it is still the Muck Bowl.
— . (@ItsPaoloni) September 14, 2017
How have two small cities in South Florida sent more than 40 players to the NFL?
— SB Nation (@SBNation) September 14, 2017
I’ll be tweeting about the rivalry all week leading up to the game on Twitter at @teeroyhowell.
If you are curious about learning more, there is a six-episode documentary 4th and Forever Muck City available on Apple TV through CuriosityStream. You get the first 7 days free. After that it is $2.99 per month.