Prized possession at stake in Mandarin-Atlantic Coast tilt

For these high school rivals, the Principal's Cup is bigger than the game

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It's the top prize for two Jacksonville high school rivals, and it's rich with tradition that's only grown deeper and stronger over the years. You may not know much about the Principal's Cup, but for Mandarin and Atlantic Coast families, it's everything.

The Principal's Cup

The "Prized Possession" is something that goes beyond football. From athletics to academics, the two Southside schools battle for bragging rights and to hold onto the trophy until their next contest. 

In 2011, Mandarin High was split into two schools and Atlantic Coast was born. Friends and classmates were divided depending on where they lived. And with that divide, a friendly rivalry was born, along with the tradition of winning the Principal's Cup.

But if you ask Mandarin or Atlantic Coast senior players, they'll tell you the real winner of the Principal's Cup is decided on the football field. 

Bold City Showdown

The Mandarin Mustangs and the Atlantic Coast Stingrays will take to the gridiron Thursday night in the Bold City Showdown, Jacksonville's first local high school football game to be televised live in high definition -- airing live on Channel 4 and simulcast on 1010 XL.

This is a home game for Atlantic Coast, and it's also a year the school and its fans hope to take the Principal's Cup back.

Mandarin Mustangs

The Mustangs have beat the Stingrays on the football field for the last three years, and for seniors, that means they haven't lost to Atlantic Coast before. Senior running back Terrell Jennings believes his team is poised to win once again. Only this time, it will be in front of a live television audience.

"Fifty to zero," Jennings predicted. "I’m pumped. I’m thinking this is ESPN. I want to go out and ball. That’s all I want to do."

"It’s definitely an experience, especially for it all being our senior years," said senior wide receiver and cornerback Kas Absolu. "It’s something special for us, especially for this game. I’ve been here three years and this game is nothing like I’ve ever been a part of."

WATCH: Mandarin holds pep rally for rivalry game

"We've been working harder in practice," added senior right guard Matthew Shimko. "I better play good for mom, that’s all I’ve got to say."

These Mandarin seniors know all of the excited fans in the crowd will be loud and proud.

"From the three years I've been here, it's intense. You can hear both sides going at it," Absolu said.

And while Mandarin fans and players alike have been celebrating years of wins against Atlantic Coast, this is the first game for the new man in charge at Mandarin High School.

"This is my first year as principal at Mandarin," said John Knisely. "Definitely excited! I know (Atlantic Coast's principal) Mr. Rado called me when I was still at my last high school in the state of Washington, and he was telling me that this is the first game that’s televised in the Jacksonville area. So coming in as a new principal, the school spirit is amazing."

Atlantic Coast Stingrays

While it's been a tough three years of losses for the Atlantic Coast Stingrays players, they haven't lost hope. They plan to upset their rivals Thursday night.

"We lost by three (last year)," recalled senior defensive tackle Dave Petit. "And telling me that we lost by three, it was just one mistake. We've got them this year."

WATCH: Atlantic Coast Stingrays gear up for Bold City Showdown

If you ask senior punter Ryan Hoprich, the Atlantic Coast football team is prepared to beat Mandarin.

"Atlantic Coast is better because we're gonna have a better mindset this year," Hoprich said. "We’re going to have a better mindset on the field, and to me, we’re going to beat them that way."

He said it's an added bonus that they actually know their competitors well.

"We played Pop Warner with them," said Hoprich. "It's pretty fun seeing our friends play against us."

"A lot of people know each other," added running back Markiel Ross. "A lot of people went to middle school together around this area. So I feel like it brings the two schools together."

And while these two schools will play each other in front of live TV cameras for the first time, this is also a different first for quarterback Bubba Wohlgemuth.

"This is my first year playing in the Atlantic Coast game. So I’m excited to be there have the student body come out and support us," said Wohlgemuth.

"Especially since we’re at home," added Petit. "We can’t get beat at home."

Play-by-play for the Bold City Showdown 

The Bold City Showdown will take place at Atlantic Coast High School on R.G. Skinner Pkwy. If you can't be there in the stands, you can watch or listen live no matter where you are.

You can watch the live pregame show starting at 7 p.m. on Channel 4, on News4jax.com, or on your News4Jax app. Kickoff begins at 7:15. The game will also simulcast on 1010 XL.

About the Authors: