This weekend is arguably the biggest of the season when it comes to Peninsula Athletic League football as “Rivalry Week” kicks in for the 18 PAL squads.
That being said, certain games carry more cache with the average fan than other. Granted, fans, students and players of a particular school believe their rival is the biggest one on the schedule, and for those communities, they’re right.
But for those wondering what all the hoopla is, I’ll try to break down the importance/competitiveness of each game.
Menlo School versus Sacred Heart Prep, “The Valpo Bowl.” Although among the youngest of all the rivalry games, 2013 is only the 11th edition, it is arguably the most competitive. Menlo holds a 6-4 advantage during the regular season, winning four of the first five meetings. But the rivalry has been taken up a notch because of three Central Coast Section matchups, with the Gators holding a 2-1 edge — including a win over the Knights in the CCS Division IV championship game last season.
These teams have split the last four games.
Burlingame versus San Mateo, “The Little Big Game.” This is the granddaddy of high school rivalry games. Not only is it the longest-running rivalry game on the Peninsula, but one of the longest-tenured matchups in the Bay Area.
Talk to longtime Peninsula residents and this was THE game — no matter your affiliation or whether you were even connected to the schools. The pageantry, the tradition, the halftime show, most other games pale in comparison.
On the field? It’s actually been a bit one-sided recently, with Burlingame dominating, having won 10 of the last 12 matchups, many of which haven’t been too close. Those that have come down to the wire, however, have been among the most exciting. In a 24-23 Burlingame win in 2005, it took the Panthers breaking up a pass in the end zone to hold off the Bearcats. San Mateo got its revenge in 2009, when John Niupalau hauled in a 44-yard scoring pass with 42 seconds to play to beat Burlingame 25-20.
When this game is close, no other rivalry game compares when it comes to the drama and fan reaction. When this game is competitive, you get goose bumps watching.
Aragon versus Hillsdale, “Battle of the Fleas.” A strange name, until one considers the translation of “pulgas” of Alameda de las Pulgas means “flea” in Spanish. Both schools reside on what is colloquially known as “The Alameda,” thus, the name has stuck.
But enough about that. After the Little Big Game, this game probably has the most cache among Peninsula football fans — but the one most wonder if it really is a rivalry game. Some say to be rivals, both teams need to win some games and this is the most lopsided rivalry of all, considering Aragon has not lost since 1991 — that’s 21 straight wins for the Dons, for those counting.
There have been times over the last several years in which many believed the Knights might actually give the Dons a game, only to see Aragon roll over Hillsdale once again.
The Hillsdale team that beats Aragon to snap the drought will go down in school history.
Menlo-Atherton versus Woodside. One of two rivalry games that doesn’t have a nickname, this is arguably the most physical game played all year between any two teams. There really seems to be a general dislike between these two and you can see it in the hitting and the celebrating during the game.
This is a pendulum-type series, with one team controlling it for several years before the other reels off a number of years in a row. Right now, M-A is dominating, having won three in row. From 2004 to 2006, however, it was Woodside that won three straight.
Half Moon Bay versus Terra Nova, “The Skull Game.” This game is kind of like the little brother (Half Moon Bay) taking on his bigger brother (Terra Nova). Every now and then, little bro gets the better of his older sibling but, more often than not, it’s the Tigers handing the Cougars a beating.
The rivalry was much more even in the early days, but Terra Nova has dominated over the last 14 year, with the Tigers winning 11 times. Half Moon Bay, however, won most recently in 2010, stunning Bay Division champion Terra Nova, 34-10.
Carlmont versus Sequoia, “Battle for the Teremerre Trophy.” Although it doesn’t get the most hype, there is no more even rivalry, given the number of years these teams have played.
This year is the 58th meeting between the two and Carlmont holds a slim 30-28 advantage following Sequoia’s 35-0 win last season. Sequoia has won four of the last six meetings.
El Camino versus South City, “The Bell Game.” One of those intra-city rivalries that is huge in the South San Francisco community. What made this game so unusual — until this year — is that the game was always played at Clifford Field, the school district’s field that is on the South City campus. So while El Camino is the “home” team every other year, the Colts have never enjoyed a true home-field advantage.
Until this season. With the construction of a new football facility, El Camino, for the first time, will host the Bell Game. Given the Colts haven’t beaten the Warriors in 20 years, this year is as good as any for El Camino to break that streak.
Capuchino versus Mills, “Battle of the Strip.” This is one of those “Civil War” type games in which family could go against family. Because the two schools are so close to each other, many of the players grew up going to school together before diverging once they get to high school. You even have some families who have relatives that have attended both schools.
Jefferson versus King’s Academy. The newest of all the rivalries, it has only been in existence since 2008 when King’s Academy entered the PAL. Neither team had a specific rival and, with all the other schools already established longtime ties with other schools, these two teams were thrown together to round out the schedule.
Of the five meetings between the two teams, King’s Academy has won four times.
Maybe over the next couple of decades — if it lasts that long — it will become a true rivalry game. Right now, it just lacks the pizzazz and history of all the other rivalries on the Peninsula.