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some text Hunter Huckabay with his pumpkin.

If you don't yet appreciate that Saturday's LSU-Alabama football game in Tuscaloosa is Game-of-the-Century type stuff, you surely will by 3:30 that afternoon. With the Bayou Bengals No. 1, the Crimson Tide No. 2 and Bama still somehow favored by six or more points, it's all but certain to be the most watched game of the season, at least to this point.

Just don't ask the rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd on Lookout Mountain, the Rev. Robert Childers, to predict how his beloved Crimson Tide will fare against the Tigers.

"I announced in church the week of the 2011 LSU game that Bama would win," he recalled Monday. "LSU ended up winning 9-6 in overtime. I've never made a prediction again."

Hunter Huckabay was the rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in downtown Chattanooga from 1986 to 2006. A Louisiana native and proud LSU grad — he also went to LSU's University High — he and wife Prestine keep a LSU flag flying on their North Chattanooga home throughout football season.

Yet he also isn't making a prediction on this game, though he was known at St. Paul's for occasionally attaching a long tiger's tail to the back of his vestments following a huge LSU win, such as its 2001 Southeastern Conference title-game victory over Tennessee or its 2007 national championship triumph.

Asked if that tiger tail would appear again Sunday if he were still in the pulpit and the Tigers won, Huckabay laughed and said, "You better believe it would."

The two of them have seen it all over the years, great wins and painful losses.

Born in 1934, Huckabay still vividly remembers his first trip to Tiger Stadium when he was 10 years old.

"Tulane had a good team that year," he recalled. "We did not. But we had Y.A. Tittle at quarterback and we won 25-6."

He was also in Tiger Stadium the Halloween night that Billy Cannon ran the punt back against Ole Miss that not only made LSU a 7-3 winner but ultimately won Cannon the 1959 Heisman Trophy.

"Best football game I ever saw," Huckabay said. "The fans made so much noise on Cannon's run that it was like time was standing still."

some text Robert Childers with his pumpkin.

Much as Tittle went on to be the face of the NFL's New York Giants for more than a decade, another quarterback who became a star of stars in the Big Apple — the Jets' Joe Namath — was on the field for the first Alabama game Childers witnessed in person.

"I was 8 years old," recalled the Selma, Alabama, native. "I'll never forget getting off the elevator at the president's box, looking out over the field at Denny Stadium and thinking this was the biggest, best thing I'd ever seen."

Namath threw a touchdown pass in that 1962 game against Miami and Bama won 36-3.

It was, ironically, another game that ended in a 7-3 score that remains Childers' favorite Bama memory, however.

"The 1967 Iron Bowl at Legion Field in Birmingham," Childers said. "It was a horrible weather day. The field was a quagmire. But late in the game (quarterback) Kenny Stabler ran through the mud to score and Alabama won 7-3. They still call it the 'Run in the Mud.' Stabler was my favorite player, and that's my all-time favorite Bama memory."

For every high there is a low, of course. Two rematches top Huckabay's list of worst moments. The first was LSU electing to play Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl at the close of the same season Cannon ran the punt back. The Rebels prevailed 21-0. The Tigers also wound up playing Bama a second time during that 2011 season that they'd beaten the Tide in Tuscaloosa. Exactly like that Ole Miss rematch, LSU fell 21-0.

For Childers, the worst memory was returning to Legion Field in 1970 to watch Southern Cal running back Sam "Bam" Cunningham crush the Tide with two touchdowns and 135 yards rushing in a 42-21 win.

But there have been far more good ones than bad ones for both men, including their occasional interactions with their favorite football teams' best players.

"I got Stabler's autograph while I was still in high school," Childers recalled. "He signed it Kenny 'Snake' Stabler. I started telling people to call me 'Snake,' and I even started signing my name Robert 'Snake' Childers. For some reason it never caught on. Maybe because I was a wideout instead of a quarterback."

Huckabay remembers going to University High with Johnny Robinson, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who will be LSU's "Legend" during the SEC championship game weekend.

"He was several years younger than me, but during recess we would have these football games against each grade. Johnny was in the fourth grade and I was in the eighth. Well, his team beat the fifth-, sixth- and seventh-grade teams and were ready to play us. We said 'No.' There was no way we were going to risk losing to a fourth-grader."

Neither minister seems to have a good feel for Saturday afternoon inside Bryant-Denny Stadium. Childers is keeping mum. Huckabay will only say he expects to see a "battle royale."

But one can hope that more than a few kids will leave Tuscaloosa with an autograph from either Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (assuming he plays) or LSU's Joe Burrow, the current Heisman Trophy favorite.

As for the rest of us, maybe we'll all be lucky enough to one day call it the best football game we ever saw.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.

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