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Clever three times the size of Billings, but rivalry between Jays and Wildcats still strong


It’s been five years since Clever left the SWCL for the Mid-Lakes Conference, but the Jays still consider neighboring Billings among their rivals, if not their biggest rival.

“It's probably them, besides our conference opponents,” Clever senior forward Lane Mendenhall said of Billings after the Jays beat the Wildcats last Friday. “It’s them or maybe Crane. The closer schools, Crane, Marionville and Billings, when we go at it, it's always a fun game to watch.”

As Mendenhall mentioned, the Jays have also formed rivalries with their Mid-Lakes Conference counterparts over the past five years.

Few schools have as many rivalries as Clever. 

“There are a lot of big rivals with us,” Mendenhall said. “We take a lot personally because we're a smaller school.”

With an enrollment of 312, Clever is still small enough to rate Billings, Crane and Marionville as rivals, but big enough to also call Strafford, Fair Grove and Forsyth rivals. Billings has an enrollment of 76, Crane 108.

The Jays say their biggest rivals can change by the sport.

“Strafford and Fair Grove for football, we always go into those games trying to play hard,” Mendenhall said. “Forsyth is our rival in baseball."

“In football, it's been Strafford or Skyline,” sophomore forward Lucas Peebles said. “In basketball, it's Fair Grove or Forsyth.”

It will be interesting to see if Clever maintains spots on its schedules with Billings and Crane in the future. Billings and Crane are set to help form the Greater Ozarks Conference next school year, along with Pleasant Hope, New Covenant, Spokane, Greenwood and Marion County Early.

The Jays hope they will continue to play Billings.

“By the intensity of tonight's game, I'd say Billings is a rival for us,” Clever basketball coach Sean Price said. “I think 10 years ago, or however long ago it was, this was more of a rivalry because (the schools) were the same size. Now, with the growth (of Clever), we may not play each other in all the sports. But for basketball it's definitely a rivalry. It's a good rivalry.”

“It seems more people come out for games like this,” Mendenhall said. “It’s nice seeing and hearing the back and forth from the crowd. It drives you and makes you want to play harder.”