Will rally be rallying point?

SEATTLE - The 100th Apple Cup is a big deal, make no mistake about it. You only get to play this game once. With Boeing on as the principal sponsor of the game between Washington and Washington State, the two programs are trying some new things to commemorate the event.

To that end, there will be a rally for both programs and their fans Friday afternoon 11:30 at the Qwest Field Events Center. The two teams will be there - as will their coaches, bands, cheer squads and mascots. Now I'm not expect a Celebrity Death Match between Butch T. Cougar and Harry the Husky, but as someone that has been following this rivalry for nearly four decades, I'm not expecting a lot of hugs and backslapping either.

"I just want to take care of the luncheon and then leave," UW senior linebacker Dan Howell said Monday. And he's not even from Washington! "I didn't know that (the rally) was going to happen. I just thought that you were supposed to hate each other until after the game."

Senior defensive tackle Jordan Reffett - from Moses Lake - laid it right out there. "I don't really have any desire to be around those guys before the game, because I don't think they are going to like us much after the game," he said.

Get your bulletin boards ready, Washington State.

"Our job is to prepare and watch what they do and figure out a way to scheme them. I guess you could put that on the bulletin board too," Howell said with a laugh.

But the reality is this - Dawgs don't like Cougs, Cougs don't like Dawgs, and the twain shall never meet - except maybe for the odd encounter at the Ellensburg McDonalds, where it seems like everyone from in-state always runs into one another at some point in time.

So of course the best thing to do was bring them together the day before the game. That's definitely the first thing that crossed my mind.

"I'm kind of curious to see how that goes," Reffett said of the rally. "I think it's going to be a little bit tense in there with a room full of Dawgs and Cougs, so we'll see what happens. Hopefully everyone will keep their noses clean."

"I don't think I like it too much, especially it being a rivalry game," offered up Darin Harris, whose God-Brother is none other than Washington State receiver Brandon Gibson. "I imagine there will be some words being passed, especially with our big guys and their big guys. It kind of feels like a pre-fight press conference."

Enter Reffett, who claims to have been a Husky all his life, despite having to spend a good deal of life growing up on the eastern side of the state. "It was tough at times, but usually the Dawgs thumped on the Cougs and Ducks when I was growing up, so I always had the bragging rights," he said. "I've been going to Husky games ever since I was five years old - watching Steve Emtman - one of my idols and a guy I always try to model my game after. I remember being in the the third or fourth grade looking into the camera at one of my birthday parties, saying that I was going to play football at Washington."

And Saturday will be the culmination of that dream for Reffett and 20 other seniors. "It's going to be a legendary game and as a senior I'm proud to be a part of it," he said. "I'm going to play my tail off. I'm going to do everything I can to help this team win - that means in practice, in the film room and that means definitely on Saturday. I'm going to play my heart out and give it up for the team."

It may be a legendary game for those playing it, but on the outside it's hard to get jazzed up over a clash between the bottom two teams in the conference. But Apple Cups are special things, and Howell is quick to remind how records don't mean much when the Cougs and Dawgs hook up.

"It doesn't make a difference if you've lost every game of the year," he said. "It's the Apple Cup. Both teams are going to come to fight. They (Washington State) are going to have a new life you haven't seen. That's not going to be the same team that lost last week - not even close. That's like falling for the hype."

Juan Garcia is heavily invested in the outcome of the Apple Cup. As a player who verbally committed to Washington the day before the 2002 Apple Cup, Garcia remembers with vivid detail about the abuse he took in Pullman as the Huskies pulled out an improbable three-overtime victory over the then-No. 3 Cougars.

"I was sitting in the WSU seats and everyone was talking crap. Just seeing Tank Johnson come around and grabbed the quarterback (Jason Gesser) and slammed the quarterback, I knew we had the game," he said. "It was over, I had that feeling. But knowing it was that intense as I was going into UW, that's when it hit me that it was huge."

For the record, Garcia thinks it's a 'pretty cool' idea to meet the other team before the game. But don't mistake this for a crimson-and-gray chink in his purple armor.

"There were probably a couple of times when I rooted for WSU in the Apple Cup, but I'm not proud of that," he said.

Reffett takes his dislike of all things Washington State to a whole new level. If baby daughter Kendall thought about attending that school in the Palouse, it would be without her father's blessing.

"None of my kids - and I plan on having a few more - are going to be at WSU," he said. "I want them to be able to get a job at some point in their life."

Oregon is just as off-limits, in case anyone was interested. "There's no love lost with Oregon," Reffett added. "I wasn't too sad to see their national championship hopes go down the drain last weekend."

So for those Washington and Washington State fans heading down to Friday's rally - and I believe tickets are going for $20 - follow the lead of the players. They understand what's at stake.

"I'm just hoping nobody is immature and embarrasses the team or anything," Garcia said. "We're all adults."

"It really shouldn't matter," Howell said, when asked about any potential bulletin-board material that might come out of Friday's rally. "Some people need it to get them fueled up. But what you say isn't going to make me play any better or worse - because I won't be thinking about what you said."

Well said.

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