Published: September 4, 2013
First, Calhan stopped a long losing streak. On Friday, a win against U.S. Highway 24 neighbor Peyton would halt another.
Then, perhaps, this showdown might again become a rivalry in the actual sense of the word.
"It's been pretty one-sided the last few years," second-year Calhan coach Clint Mitchell said. "We've played each other for many years, and if that constitutes a rivalry, then we have one. But the way it's been lately, I'm hesitant to call this a true rivalry."
The Bulldogs, winless in nine games last year, started the new season Aug. 31 with a 40-22 victory at Denver Christian. Now they have something on their side as they try to break a four-game losing streak to Peyton: Momentum. And they like the feeling.
"In previous years, we were always down heading into this game," Calhan junior lineman Jourdan Ellis said. "This year, we're coming off a big win over Denver Christian, and our heads are held high. It's a big rivalry. Who's not going to be pumped for a big rivalry game?"
Peyton (0-1), which couldn't get its offense going in a 21-0 loss to Resurrection Christian on Aug. 30, overcame turnovers in last year's meeting by carving the Calhan defense for 371 rushing yards to grind out a 25-19 victory.
Eighth-year Panthers coach Ken Delahoy watched Calhan's triumph and came away with a much different impression from the team he saw just one season ago.
"Now, the kids know what's expected, and they know the system that much better," Delahoy said. "Over the years, they've been all over the place with different coaches. They came in ready to play and didn't give up when they had a couple of opportunities to quit. I'm excited for a good game, and they're coming in excited. They've got a confidence about them right now."
That confidence starts with Mitchell, a 1980 Calhan graduate who started a rebuilding project last season. Having alumni as head coach and assistant head coach/offensive coordinator - Mitchell's son, Donovan - seem to be a perfect fit for a team that had hit rock bottom.
"There is a special connection him and I have with the boys," Mitchell said. "We wore that same uniform. We enjoy being able to share that with the players."
In one afternoon, Mitchell and the Bulldogs saw the fruits of their labor by taking part in a rare, postgame, victory celebration.
That's another feeling they wouldn't mind getting used to, especially at home and against a team that's celebrated on their turf more than a few times.
"It was a good feeling to win," Calhan junior tight end and safety Trevor Crook said. "We got that bad taste out of our mouths, and there seems to be a different energy in our school now. Everyone is a lot more positive toward the team. It'll be good to play at home. Our fans stuck with us last year, and we've got to give them something to see now."