It's hard to believe that for the 107th time in history, Bellaire and Martins Ferry will clash on the football field.
Population in the two communities has dropped off and therefore the two schools have lost enrollment, which is unfortunate for all involved.
But one thing that's remained the same is the passion. The desire to go out on the field whether it's on a Friday night at Martins Ferry or on Saturday at Nelson Field and lay it on the line for bragging rights for years to come. That's especially true for the senior classes, which will be talking about this game for years to come.
Both schools have had success in the postseason, but as Purple Riders' head coach Dave Bruney pointed out earlier this week, most old timers, anyway, would probably opt to win this game tonight.
Bruney grew up watching this game, played in the game and has coached in it now for better than 30 years.
"The history and tradition of this game are what jump out at me," Bruney said when asked what makes this game so special. "For me personally, I've had a lot of family members involved in this game both playing and coaching. Plus, the relationships that have been forced with people from both communities over the years due to the longevity of it also make it special."
Whether it's for good or bad, things change over time and this rivalry has changed. Well before my existence on this planet - let alone in the role of media covering this game - the rivalry was bitter and from all reports nasty. Plain and simple, kids from Bellaire didn't like kids from Martins Ferry and vice versa.
"It's evolved in a good way," Bruney said. "It's gone from that bitter type of thing to more of a mutual respect, especially in the last 20 or so years. The Bellaire game is actually one of the cleanest games we play in all year, but it's still hard hitting and intense."
With the advent of travel sports and the social media world, the rivalry has obviously calmed to an extent. Between the lines, for 48 minutes, you'd better believe that each team wants to win in the absolute worst way.
"All of these kids know each other or follow each other on Twitter," Bellaire head coach Jose Davis said. "Even when I played in the 90s, it wasn't like it is now. Besides hearing about someone in the paper or on television, I didn't know the kids from Martins Ferry personally, but now they do now. We certainly don't want our kids to hate anyone, but back in the day, you didn't like the kids from Martins Ferry. You certainly respected them, but you didn't like them."
Now, the kids don't only know each other, but many genuinely like each other.
"I don't ever see it going back to that bitter kind of rivalry," Davis said. "With the way these kids all play other sports together and communicate on the Internet, it's like this for all schools."
For the first time in quite sometime, this week's game has implications for both teams.
Again, though, should any of that really matter? It's the Bellaire vs. Martins Ferry game, for crying out loud.
"I think since we've not been real good the last five years and with the expansion of the playoff system, the game has lost some of its luster," Davis said. "It's still special to both communities, but for the older people there was no talk of playoffs or anything like that."
The Big Reds need a win to firm up their hold on a playoff berth in Division V, Region 17, while the Purple Riders need a win to take themselves off the Division IV, Region 15 playoff bubble.
Regardless what happens tonight or later when the official playoff pairings are announced, the winner and loser will always remember the outcome and will have listen to the bragging rights from their 'buddies' as the school year and their lives continue.
Thursday evening both schools held spirit parades, pep rallies and bonfires to help energize their respective teams for tonight's game. The beautiful thing about Ohio Valley sports is how many former players return to their alma maters - or even other schools - to coach and help shape the young people much like they were during their prep and junior high days.
The mutual respect also translates over to the coaches.
Take Martins Ferry's staff for example, it has two assistant coaches - Dirk Fitch and Rich Materkoski - who are Bellaire High graduates.
Actually, Materkoski was teammates with Davis and offensive assistant Ty Masciarelli on some juggernaut Big Reds' teams of the late 90s.
Materkoski actually took to his Twitter account Thursday to wish his friends and counterparts good luck for tonight when he Tweeted, "Gonna be a great atmosphere tom. at Purple Rider Stadium. And really is a pleasure to coach against (Jose Davis)and (Ty Masciarelli) #MuchRespect."
His hashtag sums up the entire rivalry - on both sidelines and in both bleachers - Much Respect!
River High head coach Mike Flannery has been battling his fair share of ups and downs this week. He saw the unofficial OHSAA computer poll last weekend and his Pilots were sitting in ninth entering Saturday's game against Frontier.
His emotional wave went upward after he received a tip that Reedsville Eastern might have had to forfeit two victories due to an ineligible player.
We checked out the tip and confirmed it with the OHSAA and the association released its new rankings this past Tuesday afternoon and the Pilots were in eighth. However, that evening, a news article was printed in the Pomeroy Daily Sentinel that the victories might be restored.
However, the email cited in the article was dated Sept. 26, meaning the OHSAA had considered the appeal and made it ruling. So, the computer rankings appeared to be set and River was in a win and your in mentality.
Then Thursday evening rolled around and the Daily Sentinel published an article to its website, saying the OHSAA had restored the Eastern record to 6-3.
So, where we stand is River needs major help to qualify for the playoffs on top of a victory Saturday afternoon. There will certainly be some serious scoreboard watching tonight in Hannibal.
TWEETS OF THE GAME WEEK
Harrison Central senior Nick Pelegreen expressed how much the football season has meant to him when he Tweeted the following Thursday evening, "Can't wait to go out tomorrow and play one last game on our field with my fellow seniors."
Staskey can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at TLSportsSeth