I can see the glow of Friday night lights in the dark cool sky on a clear autumn evening. I can sense the energy and electricity from both sides of the field as rivals prepare to face off in an annual battle of the gridiron. Some football rivalries can be whole town events in small communities, and even some bigger communities have 100+ year traditions of playing the same schools from across town for the big game.
I grew up in Henderson, Nevada which is southeast of Las Vegas. We were an island of our own off in the desert back then. Today the two towns have grown into each other and there is no space between them. When I got ready to attend junior high and high school, my family moved to the newer part of town called Green Valley and I subsequently was zoned to attend the new Green Valley High School instead of Basic High School. (Whose idea was it to name a school Basic anyway?) Because both teams were from Henderson, there was a natural rivalry that was formed. Even when Basic didn’t have the talent that our team had or vice versa, we both showed up to those games and played our hearts out. We had an undefeated football season thwarted by Basic one year when they had a losing record. But as rivalries often go, it has less to do with the talent of the team and more to do with who shows up to win. That was a disappointing loss. We went on to win region and compete for state while Basic stayed home, but I remember more about losing that rivalry game than the tournament. It was heartbreaking.
Though we often think of football first when talking about rivalries, it can also vary from sport to sport. I was also able to play on one of the first boys’ volleyball teams in the State of Nevada when they approved boys’ volleyball as a high school sport in 1992. Our rival was Chaparral High, which was one of the only other schools with a decent team in the beginning. We lost to them at state both years I played, and I still have some anger and resentment in my heart for the Chaparral Cowboys. Grrr.
Today, rivalries still exist between high schools and some fierce rivalries exist between schools for specific sports. However with the growth of our communities, there have been some changes of the guard for rivalries. Roy High and Weber are longtime Rivals, but when Fremont High School was built in 1994 many students were moved from both Roy and Weber to become Fremont Students and today both schools view Fremont as a top rival. A similar situation happened when Syracuse High School was built. Some Syracuse homes are zoned for Clearfield High School and local students attend both schools. Neighbors can sometimes attend different high schools though they just live down the street. These new schools form new rivalries, though they never really replace old ones.
Clearfield High has had some incredible rivalries with Davis High. They have met each other over 50 times on the gridiron and currently the record is 27-22-1 in favor of Davis. Let’s go Falcon’s Time to take a few of those back. Syracuse and Clearfield often don’t get to play each other because they have been in different regions; however, they did this year, with Syracuse taking the win.
Ogden High and Ben Lomond High School face off annually in the Iron Horse Battle and the Ben Lomond Scots won the game four years in a row, but Ogden High took the win this year in their 66th battle. The Trophy is a wooden box with a train track across the top, with two trains (painted with school colors) facing each other on a track. Along the front are engraved plates with the winner of each year’s rivalry game.
Roy High and Weber High have a long standing rivalry where they battle for possession of “The Shield.” The trophy is a stained glass shield which is decorated half with Roy’s and half with Weber’s logo and colors. Roy has been able to keep the shield for 4 of the last 5 years including this year. Okay Warriors, let’s get it back!
When I spoke with the athletic director of Syracuse High School, Kelly Anderson, he said that some of the rivalry fervor has died down in recent years. He misses the old days when rivalries meant the whole town showed up and it was an intense battle. Today those instances are more rare and quite a bit more tame. There are many more distractions and community members don’t get into the rivalries as they once did. It can simply be an excuse to wear your school’s team colors and gear. The teachers at several local high schools like game days because they can don their school spirit. One of the office staff at Clearfield High says she is always torn on game day because she works at Clearfield but her kids attend Syracuse High. Tough spot to be in!
Maybe some lower intensity is good because some take rivalries too seriously and can actually break the law in pranking opposing teams leading up to rivalry matches. It can ruin the fun when one school damages bleachers or paints over a statue of an opponent’s mascot. I have even heard of a few teams burning the grass on the field of an opposing team with gasoline. This is not in good taste and takes things too far.
Rivalries can be fun as well. We attended the Weber/ Fremont and the Syracuse/Clearfield games this year and both were a lot of fun. The teams fought fiercely, but in both instances we also saw groups of students from both schools wearing their school colors but hanging out together and being more friendly than I remember being with my opponents when I was in high school. Good for them in keeping the spirit of the game but also an overall spirit of friendliness within our communities.
I have a rivalry match with some friends each year when BYU plays Utah State. We get together and play a grudge golf match and then attend the game wherever it is that year. It is fun to get into the spirit of things. One year my friend painted a big Aggie A on his front yard in support of the Aggies. My son and I decorated his car with temporary “Y” stickers another time, all in good fun. It is a great excuse to get together and spend time in each other’s company and eat some great food, even if we are rooting for the opposite teams.
This brings me to the ultimate rivalry this Thanksgiving, the Turkey Bowl that I will be playing in at a local park here Thanksgiving day. It is one of the highlights of the year to face off with friends and neighbors and battle for the pride of the season, The Turkey Bowl Win. I hope you enjoy the memories of this rivalry season and many more to come.