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Posted Dec 3, 2010, 1:38 pm
High school football season is over for the year, except in Douglas and Bisbee, where fans in the two southeastern Arizona cities are already looking forward to the 2011 match-up.
The game between Bisbee High School and Douglas High School is one of the oldest rivalries in the nation. The teams have matched up 140 times since 1906, and they're looking to once again etch their names into The Copper Pick.
Bisbee Athletic Director Mike Bunnell, who's held the job for three years, said that it's the biggest rivalry he's ever been associated with.
"I was in awe of a high school game with that many people," he said.
At this year's game, "on the Douglas side [of the field] they had lawn chairs lined up along the fence," Bunnell said. "It's just like the towns close down. I don't want to call it 'The Game,' but it really is 'The Game.'"
Estimations put this year's attendance as high as 4,000 people.
The next game is Aug. 26 at Bisbee High School.
Bunnell said that throughout the summer, his kids will do weight-lifting and conditioning, "all geared toward Douglas, and then after that, the team gets ready for the rest of the season."
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This year had a little extra emotion leading up to the game after the former Bisbee coach, Truman Williamson, 75, died in a single-vehicle crash in April near Sierra Vista. It's thought that he had a heart attack while he was driving his pickup truck on Arizona 92 on his way to a meeting at the school with a load of shoulder pads.
"Immediately after his death, it was a huge issue for the coaching staff to be available to the kids and make sure we recognized his contribution to the program," said Chris Vertrees, Bisbee's head coach. "We wanted to give the kids a chance to grieve and do it with as much class as possible."
A moment of silence was held for Williamson at the beginning of the game on Aug. 27 at Douglas High School.
"We talked a few minutes before the moment of silence about remembering (Williamson's) contributions and what he would want us to accomplish, so winning that game was special for us," Vertrees said.
The game was an ugly display of offense and a gritty display of defense. The score at halftime was 2-0 (Douglas scored a safety).
Bisbee would open the second half marching down the field and finally scoring the game's first touchdown but failing on the two-point conversion to give the Pumas a 6-2 lead.
Douglas would jump back in the lead with a 4-yard touchdown pass after a fumble recovery. But the Bulldogs would also fail on their two-point try.
Bisbee finished the game with a go-ahead touchdown and a successful 2-point conversion to take a 14-8 lead, leaving just over a minute left on the clock.
On the ensuing Douglas possession, Bisbee's Raul Hidalgo would end up intercepting Douglas quarterback AJ Acosta's pass and sealing the game for Bisbee and The Copper Pick.
"It's probably the most depressing thing I've seen," said Spencer Grijalva, a former Douglas wide receiver and linebacker from 2007 to 2010, who now plays for Pima Community College in Tucson. "Losing the state game my senior year was bad, but losing The Pick, you don't understand what it means to the towns."
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The Copper Pick has been awarded to "The Game's" winner since 1945. Each game, the winning team's name is engraved onto the copper plates that surround the trophy. On top of the recently expanded base of the trophy sits a copper mining pick.
Long before The Pick, Bisbee won the inaugural game 7-6. In the first 30 years of the rivalry, Bisbee and Douglas split the outcomes in half, 26-26, with 6 ties.
At one time, the teams played twice each year—once before Thanksgiving and again on the Friday after. It wasn't until 1955 that the rivalry was limited to one time a year.
In 1975, the mining pit in Bisbee was closed and the student body population at Bisbee High School dropped dramatically. As a result, Bisbee had to drop to Class 2A with other smaller schools. Douglas maintained its Class 4A status and began to run away with the rivalry. It now leads the Bulldogs 75-57-8.
Douglas has won 13 of the matchups since 1995.
Douglas' success over Bisbee led to an unnamed Bisbee superintendent nixing "The Game" from the schedule.
"They had a new athletic director at Bisbee, and he decided he didn't want to play us," said Randy Walker, Douglas vice principal.
But that didn't last long. The solution was to schedule a game at the beginning of the season and then let the teams go on and play their conference games.
Now "The Game" is even bigger than homecoming, Bunnell said. "We have the bonfire like homecoming and the pep rally," he added. "The only thing we don't do are the floats."