Small Town Football Rivalries

Every Friday night in October is special. Squads of young warriors go into battle against another. They play for records, for wins for glory, and for bragging rights. Some games are big for play-offs, others are even bigger, those are hometown rivalries. The football game becomes much more than just a game.

Wood River and Gibbon are only fifteen minutes apart, these are neighbors, they are friends and oh yes, they're big time rivals.

"I played this game all four years now and it's always a knock-down drag-out fight against Gibbon and Wood River," says Gibbon Senior Matt Smallcomb.

"I told the kids lets make this our play-off game, come out and play hard, for seniors this is it your last game, it's against Gibbon what more could you ask for, and their eyes light up a little bit," says Wood River Coach Chad Wiseman.

Eyes light up all through both towns each time this game rolls around, this rivalry has stood the test of time.

"My junior year we played here and I got hit so hard it broke my helmet and cut my eye, it's always a good game," says Lonni Jurgens who played for Gibbon in the seventies.

Thirty years later Lonnie's son plays for Gibbon, just one of many sons playing in this anticipated match-up.

"My Dad told me you have to win against Gibbon, we never lost to them," says Wood River Senior Josh Harders.

As the crowds piled into the stadium excitement filled the air and this year's battle began.

"The nerves hit in the last few minutes before the game in the locker room, then you know it's time and you have to come out and start playing as hard as you can," says Harders.

The game started with the first of many trick plays, the defenses of both teams shined as each team collected interceptions. Both teams also missed their share of field goals and as the crowds got louder Gibbon finally took the lead before halftime with a touchdown.

By the fourth quarter the defenses had dominated and Wood River was forced to punt with just two minutes left in the game.

"We felt the momentum shift there, we needed a fumble and we got one, and punched it in," says Coach Wiseman.

Wood River tied the game at seven and sent it into overtime, the started things off with a touchdown, but missed the extra point leaving the door open for Gibbon to win the game.

"Overtime, what a great play, it takes all eleven kids to make a play like that but it was a great catch by that kid," says Wiseman about the interception that sealed the comeback victory for Wood River.

From storied rivalry to storybook ending Wood River claimed this chapter. The win was extra special for the Eagles because Coach Wiseman announced it was his last game, he would be stepping down as head coach for next season.

For the seniors it was the last game, but for the schools and the towns there will always be next year.


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