BELLAIRE - Preparations are in full swing for the first meeting in 63 years between Bellaire and Shadyside on the football field.
Both teams - coming off wins Friday - returned to the practice field Monday as they worked to get the focus back on football and away from the hype and excitement that's building in both communities.
"Both communities are doing it right to make it fun for the kids, but not to the point where it's taking time away from school work or practice," Shadyside head coach Mark Holenka said. "
Some of the events planned include pep rallies at both schools; members of both teams will go head-to-head on Wednesday evening in a wing eating contest at the Central Grille in Shadyside; there's been a friendly wager between the school administrators and both schools are selling commemorative t-shirts for the game.
"It's like a homecoming week with all of the different things going on," said Bellaire head coach Jose Davis. "We're going to try to limit our kids' participation outside of the work we need to get done on the practice field as much as possible because we don't want any unnecessary distractions."
While the game is important to both teams and communities, Bellaire begins Buckeye 8 League play next week and still has plenty of rivalry-type games to go in the form of its arch rival Martins Ferry in Week 10 and St. Clairsville.
"We don't want to make this game bigger than what it is, but we understand how excited the communities are for it," said Davis. "We've been stressing to our kids that regardless if it's Shadyside, East Liverpool, Bridgeport or whoever, it's the biggest game on our schedule right now, but there's going to be a week 4 for both teams."
Shadyside, however, doesn't necessarily have the natural rivalry that the Big Reds do with the Purple Riders. Games with Monroe Central, Wheeling Central, Bridgeport and Barnesville are looked at something like rival games, but nothing to the point that the Big Reds and Purple Riders could be.
"This is a big game, but to Bellaire's credit, they have a lot of big games, especially in the Buckeye 8," Holenka said. "Not to discredit or slight any of our opponents, but what (Bellaire) has to prepare for week in and week out is much different than we prepare for. We just don't have that natural rival."
Unlike in 1950, the addition of social media has certainly changed the landscape of rivalries. The majority of the players on both teams know each other well, play other sports against and with one another and hang out.
"There's not as much rivalry anymore because the kids are friends with each other," Davis said. "Football is the last sport that we didn't play Shadyside in, so these kids have competed against each other before."
Holenka thinks that had this game returned to the schedules long ago, the added intensity of teams from bordering communities playing might have become an additional issue.
"It's going to be an intense game Saturday, but after the 48 minutes on the field, the kids will still be friends because friendships are more important than rivalries on the football field."