Divided by a rivalry, united by friendship


East Alabama — As you approach exit 79 leaving Georgia heading into Alabama, there are two options: a right toward Lanett and a left toward Valley. But on Friday, two players, one from each city, found somewhere to meet in the middle.

“I saw how upset he was and I just wanted to go up to him and give him a hug and say he’s still the best player around here,” Valley lineman Daniel Osborne said.

Daniel’s Valley Rams had just upset Kristian Story’s Lanett Panthers, who won a state title last year. The schools are bitter rivals but the two players have been friends since kindergarten.

“It was the first day of school and our parents knew each other so our relationship has just grown from kindergarten,” Lanett quarterback Kristian Story said. 

Three years ago, Kristian’s dad Clifford took the head coaching job at Lanett putting a bridge between their friendship.

“We talk all the time,” Osborne said. “It’s not that hard for me but you think it would be because we’re rivals but no matter where you go you can still have friends.”

Story, who’s highly recruited as a junior, says it’s more than just being friends.

“With a true best friend, you don’t have to talk to them everyday to know they’re still there,” Story said. “He’s more than a best friend to me. He’s been like my brother since we were young so it’s God and family before anything else so he’s like family to me. It comes before football.”

His family also includes the Panthers’ head coach who helped them win their first-ever state title.

“The bond that they have will be lifetime,” Clifford Story said. “When they get their families and get married and have children they’ll still come and visit each other and see each other. To be honest with you, after that game was over and I saw that [the hug] my mind went immediately to, ‘This is what it’s all about.'”

Legendary NFL head coach Vince Lombardi once asked: “If winning isn’t everything, then why do they keep score?”

These two friends might just be the answer.

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