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What a difference a rivalry makes

Intensity ramps up when certain teams play each other


Rivalry football games are contests that get circled on the calendar, get players and students pumped up and get coaches to put a little extra into game planning.

Pueblo Central versus Pueblo Centennial is the oldest rivalry football game in Colorado. It was first played in 1892 and now is known as the Bell Game, with the winner gaining possession of an old train bell that was donated as a trophy in 1950.

There are several intense Colorado rivalries involving area teams and most are tied to geographic proximity or games within the same school district.

Changing conference alignments and schools switching classes have purged some rivalries and forced teams to move games against rivals to early in the season — including Week 1, which is the case with several games this season.

“The good news is we are still playing these rivalry games,” said Derek Chaney, Douglas County School District athlethic director. “We sort of flip-flopped the schedule and what used to be the non-league games are our league games. The games lose a little bit because league titles are not on the line.

“The flip side is we are playing these rival games in the good weather. The student bodies, I don’t think they care if it is a league or non-league game.”

Crowds in Colorado are not as large as some other states, such as Florida and Texas, but the attention surrounding rivalry games is considerable.

Bleachers fill fast at 3,500-seat Shea Stadium in Highlands Ranch for the ThunderRidge-Mountain Vista game. The parking lot fills up hours before the game with tailgating, and then many people line up outside the stadium behind the north end zone to watch the game.

“We sell out that game every year,” ThunderRidge Athletic Director Sean Patterson said. “It’s a hyped-up game, the kids are hyped up for it. It’s a great atmosphere.”

The Castle View-Douglas County crosstown rivalry is another can’t-miss contest as the Castle Rock teams compete in the Battle of the Rock affair. This year, the game was in the opening week on Sept. 1.

“There is no better atmosphere than a rivalry game,” Douglas County coach Gene Hill said. “There is nothing better than seeing the stands full. Players are more focused. The hard part is making sure the players still play within themselves. It absolutely stinks that this game is played in Week 1. How much fun would it be to see these two teams play Week 10 for a league title or a playoff spot?”

Castle View senior Heath Helms said everyone on the team circles the date of the Douglas County game.

“The biggest part of the rivalry is everyone used to play together, then when high school starts they spilt and go to different schools,” he said. “There is a lot of trash talking. It’s still friendly. Everyone is still friends after the game but when we are on the field, it’s a fight.”

Legend and Ponderosa are two Parker schools that play in non-league and the lower parking lot fills at EchoPark Automotive Stadium early with tailgaters. Ponderosa is a 4A school but still plays the Titans. The third Parker public high school, Chaparral, isn’t on the Mustangs’ schedule.

“The Legend game is a great experience for both teams’ players and the Parker community,” Ponderosa coach Jaron Cohen said. “The atmosphere on game day is fantastic and the players know each other through playing youth ball.”

In some games, there is hardware on the line.

Heritage, a Littleton school, and Arapahoe, located a few miles away in west Centennial, play each season for the Brookridge Trophy. It is a milk can that is a tribute to the Brookridge dairy farm that used to occupy the area where Littleton Public Schools Stadium now stands.

Legacy has two big rival games each year, one against Broomfield and the other against Adams 12 district school Horizon.

“Horizon is a district school and you always want to be the best in the district,” Legacy Athletic Director Brendon Feddema said. “The Broomfield game every year draws a lot of people, but as soon as the game is over the players are good friends. It is the Best of Broomfield game.”

Northglenn and Thornton are longtime rivals that played for the 89th time on Sept. 1 in what is called the I-25 Bowl.

“This game is one that both sides play up for and it’s usually a great game,” Northglenn Athletic Director Matt Oelhert said. “Each of our communities has multiple generations who have gone to either Northglenn or Thornton.”

There have been several metro-area rivalries that have developed because of the strength of the teams. While these schools aren’t in the same city or the same league, year after year, it seems, they are squaring off in the playoffs, often with a state championship on the line.

Valor Christian, seven-time Colorado state champions, has developed rivalries with Cherry Creek and Pomona mainly because of competitive games and the fact the teams are typically battling it out for Class 5A state titles.

Valor holds a 4-2 edge in the series, but the Bruins ended the Eagles’ 28-game in-state winning streak in 2014, and later that season Creek won the state championship with a 25-24 win over Valor Christian.

Pomona has lost the past two title games to Valor but the Panthers have three wins over the Eagles during the regular season.

“In the past four years, we’ve played Pomona eight times and Creek four times,” said Valor coach Rod Sherman. “They have been good games.”


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