Current high school rivalries rich in spirit, not tradition
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SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 27th, 2008 The Helmet Game trophy is held up by Mitchell High School head coach Archie Malloy (ceter) after he and his team defeated Wasson High School in their game at Garry Berry Stadium. It was the 46th time these teams have faced each other on the gridiron and is known as the Helmet Game. Mitchell defeated Wasson 30-14. (THE GAZETTE/KIRK SPEER)

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For 48 years, the annual Helmet Game between Wasson and Mitchell was the most anticipated high school football game as the city's longest gridiron rivalry.

Now, it's only a memory.

Although Wasson's closure ended the historic battle, constantly changing schedules and new leagues have prevented schools from creating such rivalries.

"We always circled that game," longtime Mitchell coach and alumnus Archie Malloy said. "It did so much for the city and schools, and I'm very sorry to lose that opportunity."

Every two years, the Colorado High School Activities Association reclassifies schools based on enrollment and groups the schools into leagues solely for football, then for all other sports.

Colorado Springs has nothing on Pueblo. Central and Centennial first met in 1892, and the Bell Game is noted as the oldest high school football rivalry west of the Mississippi River. East and South have battled 54 times; the contest is better known as the Cannon Game.

"The leagues are ever changing," Malloy said. "Rivalries seem to be a dying fad. The Wasson-Mitchell game united a community."

In 2012, Mitchell had only two District 11 opponents in its 3A league, Coronado and Wasson, joined by Discovery Canyon, Lewis-Palmer and Woodland Park. In a few months, the next cycle will be announced, and with Coronado a possible candidate to return to 4A, the Marauders would be devoid a district foe in future years.

"If you asked me who our main rival is, I'd just tell you whoever our next opponent is," Malloy said.

It spans other sports, too.

When asked about league history, Cheyenne Mountain athletic director Kris Roberts took a deep breath to delve into the history books.

He talked about days in the Southwest League, even the Will Rogers League back before Cheyenne Mountain grew into a school with more than 1,300 students. In a different day, the Indians put it all on the line against such rivals as La Junta and Lamar.

Just last season, Cheyenne Mountain and seven other schools broke away from the Colorado Springs Metro League to create the upstart Pikes Peak Athletic Conference, rekindling some rivalries while starting new ones.

"It ebbs and flows," Roberts said. "Today, our games with Air Academy and Palmer Ridge are spirited games and bring about great competition."

Dan McKiernan, a St. Mary's graduate who later coached the Palmer boys' basketball team to two 5A state titles, has seen his share of rivalries as the city has evolved and grown in all directions.

"I can remember Palmer playing St. Mary's in football, and you'd never see that today," said McKiernan, who later coached at Rampart and Doherty. "When I first came to Palmer in the late 1970s, our biggest rivals were Coronado and Mitchell. Later on, it became Wasson. Then they built Doherty and it became Palmer-Doherty. Then Sierra got really good. I've seen some really great rivalries in this town, but they're always changing."

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