The 53rd County Clash

‘County Clash’ leaves house divided

The Sluders’ football loyalties will be on opposite sidelines Friday
By Chuck Fiebernitz | Oct 11, 2016
Photo by: Donated Randy Sluder, left, and his wife Karen will be cheering for different teams Friday night.

It’s “County Clash” week for football fans, which means Haywood County is divided right down the middle.
Black Bear fans are growling on one side, Mountaineer fans are angrily frowning on the other side of the line. But whether you wear black and red or black and yellow, this week, and specifically Friday night, is one high school football fans anticipate all season.
Karen and Randy Sluder have been together for more than seven years and have been married the last four. But come County Clash Week, they become rivals themselves and their house is divided.
Karen, who is Dr. Bill Nolte’s assistant at the Board of Education, is a Black Bear fan and graduated from Pisgah in 1974. Randy, who owns the Sluder Design Studio, is a Mountaineer fan and graduated from Tuscola in 1971.
“For this week, our house is divided,” said Randy. “There is a lot of ribbing and even some trash talking. I think her whole family went to Pisgah, so I hear it from her and everybody. Two years ago, after a devastating loss to Pisgah, we were at her son’s [Travis] house and his 2-year-old son [Henry] toddled over to me and whispered in my ear… ‘How ‘bout those Bears?’ They had worked with him all day to say it. I about died laughing. That was probably in retaliation to the Thanksgiving dinner we hosted for her family, when I had the winning Tuscola score against Pisgah posted on the front door.”
Karen is the quiet one in the marriage but she can dish it out just as good as her husband if she needs to. But at the end of the day, she believes the County Clash is an exceptionally fun rivalry that makes football season a bit more exciting.
“I don’t do a lot of talking,” said Karen. “But I can give it back if I need to. I think every year, this week is a lot of fun, it really is,” said Karen. “It’s fun to get involved in it. Our rivalry is unique and has been that way since the schools open their doors in 1966. We are a small county and have only two schools. It also has a serious element to it and its not just between the players or coaches. It’s also intense between the fans.
“I had my first child in April and by the fall, she was at Pisgah games wearing red and black. Now, as for my husband, he hasn’t had a lot to talk about the past three years. Hopefully, we can make it four in a row.”
Randy, however, has the perfect comeback.
“Tuscola has held the series lead (26-25-1) since the mid-80s,” said Randy. “Enough said.”
Over the years, both Karen and Randy have seen the intensity of the County Clash, which has been voted as the best high school football rivalry in the state by USA Today and one of the top rivalries in the southeast and the country.
“When playing Pisgah in the late 60s, we never took our cars to Canton because the Pisgah boys would bust our windshields, especially if we beat them,” said Randy. “To make matters worse, those guys from Canton would ride to Waynesville to date Tuscola girls. Friday night football was always a great date venue. A place to see and be seen. I look back on those times fondly and I am glad to live in Waynesville.”
Despite their difference in opinion for the rivalry, the Sluders do have a great marriage. Although they continue to poke at each other until kickoff.
“She likes to say to me, ‘Go Bears Go,’” said Randy. “I  comeback at her with, ‘Give ‘em Hell Mountaineers.’”
Some things about this rivalry will never change and that’s what makes Pisgah vs. Tuscola the greatest high school football rivalry in the state. And having your house divided by this rivalry for just one entire week is perfectly alright as long as you remember that you love your spouse despite their flawed allegiance.