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Dating teens to put romance on hold as rival teams take the field

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By Robert Howey

If all's fair in love and war, then football ranks right up there with both.

Romance involving football rivals may make a place-kicking situation in tonight's Buford-Lancaster county clash an interesting scenario.

And extra points – usually regarded as routine plays – may not be so routine when the Jackets and Bruins tangle at BHS tonight.

That's because Lancaster High School senior place-kicker Anna Funderburk will be battling against her boyfriend, Buford High senior captain Joe Wright, a two-way starter at offensive guard and linebacker.

As if the rivalry relationship isn't enough, the game – the fifth time the two schools 12 miles apart have clashed in football – marks a battle of unbeatens, with each sporting 2-0 records.

"It's going to be really weird," Funderburk said. "We've never had an argument and we're supportive of each other, but Friday night we will be trying to kill each other's team.

"I'm really nervous before a game, but I'll probably be more nervous than I was the first time I kicked in a game," said Funderburk, who has been place-kicking for the Bruins since her freshman year.

The seeds of the romance rivalry clash were sewn when Funderburk and Wright started dating after meeting at the beach in April.

"I'm friends with her cousin, Colt Ellis, and he introduced us," Wright said. "At first, I didn't really realize she was the girl who kicked for Lancaster, but as I got to know her, I found out. When I realized it after a couple of days, I just laughed."

Wright's father, Joe, had an amusing observation when he learned of his son's new courtship.

"He said he was a little concerned because I was dating a Lancaster football player," Wright said.

Through the spring and over the summer, the subject was a frequent conversation piece between the two players and their families.

"We joked about it a lot during the summer. I guess we didn't think about it much then, but now it's here," Funderburk said. "As the game's gotten closer, we've talked about it more."

So if Lancaster scores a touchdown, or has a field goal situation, Funderburk will be trying to score and Wright will be attempting to block her kick.

"Some of our guys have kidded me to say they might not block Joe just to see if he would hit me," Funderburk said. "I don't care if he hits me as long as the ball goes through the uprights. The team comes first. I want to win, but I want him to do well, too."

Wright, who lines up in the middle of the BHS defense when opponents try an extra point, said he will be taking a similar serious stance.

"If it comes down to it, I'd try to block the kick," Wright said. "I wouldn't try to hurt her because I don't want to get a penalty. I'll just be doing my job."

If Wright does block a Funderburk kick, there could be a "personal foul" penalty even if there is no contact and resulting flag.

"I told him if he blocked the kick, don't call me," Funderburk said.

"I'll probably try harder than I usually do to block the kick because of this situation," Wright said. "If I block it, she will just have to be mad, but I'll still call her."