Many weeks during the high school football season, we talk about rivalry games.
And we are doing that again this week, as city rivals Battle Creek Central and Lakeview are playing and league rivals Pennfield and Delton Kellogg will clash and regional rivals Union City and Athens will play in the Little Brown Jug game.
But what is the top rivalry game in the Battle Creek area?
Is there one?
Would all teams or high school football fans agree on one select matchup above all others?
A few weeks ago, Brian Kelly, the Notre Dame coach, found himself making national news because he didn’t embrace his team’s college football rivalry with the University of Michigan.
He said the two teams were rivals, but he hinted that the Michigan game wasn’t ‘The Rivalry’ for the Irish.
Which raises the question. Is a rivalry the same for everyone? Would even the two teams involved agree that a rivalry is their own top rivalry game on the schedule?
For Notre Dame, the Irish might see games against USC or even Michigan State as more important than their annual game against Michigan.
For Michigan, Notre Dame is a rivalry game for sure, but it doesn’t compare to games against Ohio State and Michigan State.
In high school football in the Battle Creek area, there are rivalry games that jump off the schedule once you take a look at it every fall.
* Battle Creek Central vs. Kalamazoo Central – the longest running rivalry in the state, with the teams having played since the 1800s.
* Lakeview vs. Harper Creek – longtime league and city rivals going back to the Twin Valley and continuing in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference.
* Battle Creek Central vs. Lakeview – the two biggest schools in Battle Creek, with the longest tradition of playing each other amongst teams in the city.
* Pennfield vs. Delton Kellogg – When the Kalamazoo Valley Association asked for rivalry games to highlight the last game of the year, both schools raised their hand and said we want to play each other.
* St. Philip vs. Climax-Scotts – They have had a trophy associated with the rivalry between these two schools across all sports. They don’t play each other in football anymore, but it has a nice history in that sport, too.
* Harper Creek vs. Marshall – Neighboring schools that have played some of the best football in the area over the last 20 years. At one time, it was No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the state when these two schools matched up.
* Union City vs. Athens – The Little Brown Jug game has been played since 1947 with bragging rights on the line each time out.
And the list could probably go on. Which is why it’s hard to say what the top rivalry in the Battle Creek area is — even for the coaches.
Battle Creek Central wants to be true to its long-standing rivalry with Kalamazoo Central – as coaches repeat the story each year about it being ‘the longest running rivalry west of the Alleghenies.’ But the Bearcats also have a city rivalry with Lakeview, where players might even be neighbors, and everyone knows each other.
“Traditionally speaking, obviously Lakeview is probably considered our biggest rivalry in our mind because it is a cross-town rivalry. A close second is Kalamazoo Central,” BCC coach Lorin Granger said. “With those two schools, it is more than football game. There’s trash-talking that is involved and sometimes more.
“In the past, you’d have a Lakeview band member get one of our jerseys and have some fun with it, maybe stomping on it at the game. Or at Kalamazoo Central, we’ve been locked out of the locker room. Stuff like that happens in rivalries.”
Lakeview splits its rivalry energy between a couple schools also. One is BCC, who the Spartans play this week for city bragging rights. But there’s also Harper Creek, and that game might have a league title on the line when the two schools play later in the year.
“True definition of a rivalry is when two communities get together and cheer for their side and I think it’s as strong as it has ever been between us and Battle Creek Central and Harper Creek,” Lakeview coach Matt Miller said. “And it doesn’t matter if one team is up and one team is down.
“A couple years ago, we were 4-4 and BCC was 1-7 and they beat our butts. Then another year, we were down and we beat them and that made our season for our kids. Winning means a lot to the team that wins and losing is a heartbreaker to the team that loses.”
For Harper Creek, it is hard to separate the city rivalry it has with Lakeview and the regional rivalry it has with Marshall.
“Our biggest two rival games are with Lakeview and Marshall. Proximity has a lot to do with the rivalry. You knew that if you beat either school, your kids could be proud of what they accomplished,” Harper Creek coach Ed Greenman said. “It is always nice to have bragging rights over a neighbor that you respect. There have been years where on paper one school should beat the other, but the underdog would win.
“You never know what will happen in a rivalry game, and we have had great games versus both schools over the years.”
Sometimes it can come down to how competitive a rivalry is, as to whether it still brings out the fire in both teams and the fan bases.
While the Little Brown Jug game has a title and a tradition, the rivalry has lost some steam recently as Athens has lost 12 in a row to Union City.
Pennfield raises up its annual game with Delton Kellogg, but D-K’s recent struggles has hampered that rivalry as Pennfield has won 12 straight between the two schools.
“It can depend on both teams being strong sometimes,” Pennfield coach Nick Koenigsknecht said. “Traditionally, especially in the 90s, we have had some great games with Delton. But it hasn’t been as close in the past few years. But even when you think you might not, we usually do have a tough game with Delton every year because they are a rival.”
“But we’ve had some great games with Constantine because they have had a really good team recently and that has become a rivalry. I think you find, that when the stakes are very high when you play each year, that becomes a rivalry really fast.”
So it is proximity, with city schools playing for bragging rights. Or, it is tradition with longtime rivals playing every year for 50 to 100 years in some cases. Or, it is quality of competition, everything on the line, seemingly every season.
All these things make a great rivalry.
But what is the No. 1 rivalry in Battle Creek-area prep football? You tell us and vote online.