I can’t remember exactly the year, but I know it was either 1999 or 2000 when my dad took me to see a Warren County at Northern Vance regular-season football game.

Then a Kerr-Vance Academy student, I had no real rooting interest in the game despite having grown up in Warren County, and my dad is a Norlina High School graduate who has worked in Henderson all of my life. I remember some debate about which side we should sit on, but we ended up choosing the bleachers designated for the visitors.

Really, we were there to see Marvin Townes play running back for the Eagles, and he didn’t disappoint.

I was 12 or 13 at the time and had never seen an athlete like Townes play in person. Townes, currently the 16th-best rusher in East Carolina history with 1,793 yards (308 yards fewer than Vance County native Eddie Hicks), remains one of the best high school athletes I’ve ever seen lace it up.

Had I been able to witness Warren County’s Corey Terry gash Southern Vance for 367 yards in 1993, I’m sure the former Tennessee Volunteers defensive star would also be on my list.

A couple of decades later, I don’t expect there to be any Townes, Terrys or Hicks on the field for Vance County High School’s next home game Oct. 22 against Southern Durham. But it will be a crucial matchup for both sides, likely deciding the Northern Lakes Athletic Conference championship and home-field advantage in the state playoffs.

As that game with Townes went on, I wanted Warren County to win. The feeling came naturally as the Eagles rolled to victory. It wasn’t my school, but it was my county. Or maybe it was just because we chose that side to sit on.

Later in life as a Dispatch sports reporter, I always wished for our hometown teams to prevail, despite my best efforts to remain objective.

Pride can be one of the virtues of sports, especially in high school football, inviting neighborhoods, cities and counties to rally around their teams.

The merger of Vance County public schools didn’t negate division within this county — there are more high schools here now than there ever have been before. But there’s one high school football team. And the community can support it whether they’re affiliated with Vance County High School or not.

The Vipers might benefit from some extra enthusiasm when Southern Durham rolls through, while trying to secure a different outcome than the previous Henderson showdown in 2019 that ended in a Spartans win.

“It was probably the single-largest crowd I’ve ever seen in this stadium,” Vance County Athletic Director Joe Sharrow said. “I’ve been here for 10 years. It was amazing. It was a very special environment.

“I expect the same thing.”

Extra pointCorey Terry’s 4,946 career rushing yards at Warren County ranks 59th in state history. And I haven’t even mentioned former Eagle Randy Jordan, who went on to play on a Super Bowl team. Those were the glory days for Warren County.