Every year, fans of Lawrence High and Free State High sports grab a calendar and circle three dates.
The first is the city football showdown, a mammoth meeting that, at least for the past couple of seasons, has been more exciting Monday through Thursday than on Friday night.
The next two circles mark the city basketball clashes, one before winter break and the other late in the season. Much to the chagrin of the favored team, these meetings generally have lived up to the hype, creating unforgettable moments and lasting memories.
The first of these three can't-miss matchups is still six weeks away, as the LHS and Free State football teams are set to meet at Haskell Stadium on Oct. 24.
Seems like a long time doesn't it? Don't fret. There's good news.
Anyone truly interested in this intra-city rivalry needs only to wait until Thursday for the first highlight showdown of the 2008-09 school year. That's when Free State's boys soccer team will play host to Lawrence High, a game that's certain to be a thriller.
Both teams enter the contest with momentum. LHS won its first two games of the season and sits at 2-1, confident and gunning for the Firebirds. Meanwhile, after its first game of the year was postponed because of lightning, Free State responded with two solid efforts at home - one win and one tie - and will look to keep its roll going against the rival Lions.
This one has everything a sports fan could want. The athletes play hard, often spilling over the boundary lines to keep plays alive.
Familiarity is a factor, as both teams have players who overlap and play for the same squad during the offseason. And both coaches are talented, intense competitors who will employ any strategy to win.
Why wait six weeks for this great rivalry to fire up?
It starts Thursday.