HIGH SCHOOL football holds a passionate place in the Ohio Valley. School rivalries can be found throughout the expansive Ohio Valley Athletic Conference.
One such rivalry, however, stands above the rest. The Bellaire and Martin Ferry grid series is one of the oldest and most spirited in the state of Ohio.
The two communities take on a fevered pitch of anticipation in week 10 of the season. The grid series was spiced even further in 1963 when the Martins Ferry Jaycees and the Bellaire Lions Club came together to sponsor the SPARKY trophy.
SPARKY is the acronym for Sportsmanship, Participation, Achievement, Rivalry, Knowledge and Youth.
The trophy is displayed the entire 10 weeks of the football season. The first five weeks, SPARKY can be found in the visiting town. The home community displays SPARKY the five weeks leading up to the grid extravanganza.
The Big Reds and Purple Riders will be vying for the 107th time when the game unfolds Saturday afternoon. The contest has much riding on the outcome, such as OVAC championships, Buckeye 8 titles and OHSAA playoff seedings, all fueling fan fervor.
Nelson Field will be bedecked in Purple & White and Red & Black, pitting horeshoes versus spears. It will be high school football at its best.
The S in SPARKY must not be lost on the moment.
The gridiron showdown will be fierce and physical. Sportsmanship must not be shunned in the heat of the battle. Players and fans, alike, must treat each other with respect.
We wish the Purple Riders and Big Reds the best of luck for a well-played and injury free contest. Regardless of the outcome, both teams and their respective communities are winners.