A new rivalry is starting in Haywood County — albeit a friendly one.

On Aug. 3, the inaugural Battle of the Badges will be held at C.E. Weatherby Stadium in Waynesville.

The “battle” will be on the football field when teams of the football players from law enforcement agencies in the county square off against firefighters and Haywood County Emergency Services to see who can claim bragging rights on the gridiron.

The Mountain Projects Auxiliary is sponsoring the event, and all proceeds will go toward expanding affordable housing.

The training has begun with team captains handing out playbooks, eyeballing the potential and making sure their team will be the strongest it can possibly be.

Waynesville Fire Department’s Ricky Mehaffey, along with EMS’ Tobias Nagle, are co-captains for the effort.

“We’ve wanted to see something like this come along for years,” Mehaffey said. “There’s a national rivalry between policemen and firefighters. We go back and forth on a daily basis. There’s constant ribbing and joking we we’re not having to be serious.”

At the same time, the banter is rooted in mutual respect and those dedicated to public service help each other immensely numerous times through the year.

“We have to have some way to take a breath and relax. We do it with each other because nobody else understands,” he added.

But on Aug. 3, it will be game on with serious bragging rights on the line. Mehaffey has no doubts about how the game will end up.

“We’re not going to lose,” he said. “We are practicing, whipping these guys into shape, and we’ll have them ready on game day.”

Nagle, too, was confident of the outcome.

Nagle concurred, saying there have been discussions about the point spread.

“How badly can you beat law enforcement before getting into trouble?” he asked. “We’re going to take that to the Nth degree. I feel sorry for the guys but we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do.”

Those who have already claimed the victory are fully prepared to receive traffic tickets or somehow get a broken tail light, but they are stepping up to feed their competitors plenty of doughnuts beforehand to help seal their victory.

“You never see a law enforcement calendar, do you really?” Nagle asked. “It’s always firefighters and paramedics. We’re the face of the operation.”

Team members invited the community out to watch them get crazy on the field, and even do silly things all in the spirit of helping out a good cause.

“Housing is one of biggest issues we’re facing in Haywood County,” Mehaffey said, adding that the Battle of the Badges is bringing the issue to the forefront.

Game day will offer plenty of fun for all ages, said Judy Dykes, organization chairwoman. Plans call for Mountain Projects Auxiliary to hopefully make the event an annual event, with the next game held at Pisgah Memorial Stadium in Canton.

“This is a family fun event to celebrate the heroic men and women in Haywood — people who understand the challenges of those helped by Mountain Projects,” Dykes said. “Affordable housing is a huge issue in our region, and Mountain Projects is launching a new initiative that will be announced at this event.”

Patsy Davis, executive director of Mountain Projects, said there are 700 families and individuals on a waiting list for additional affordable housing opportunities. Creating more housing opportunities will also help put a dent in the 110 homeless children living in the Canton area alone, Davis said.

While the action won’t begin until 6 p.m., there will be plenty of entertaining things to do, starting at 4:30 p.m. with fire truck tours, concessions and more.

Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students and free for children 5 and under.

Advance tickets will be available at the Historic Haywood Farmers Market Saturday morning and at the Haywood Cattlemen’s Association Beef Roast Saturday night.

Tickets can also be purchased at the gate, or in advance at The Mountaineer, 220 N. Main St., Waynesville; Mountain Projects, 2177 Asheville Road, Waynesville or ordered through the Mountain Projects website, mountainprojects.org.

(Coming next week: A sneak preview on how the law enforcement training is taking shape.)

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