Victor, Apple battle for the bell

"The Battle for the Bell" is what they call it and the rivals will meet at 7 p.m. today (Friday) at Apple Valley's Newton T. Bass Stadium to determine local bragging rights. (Pictured) Apple Valley RB Anthony Ambers

The High Desert of Southern California today bares only a faint resemblance to the same area 40 year ago.

 

Back in the mid-1960s, the area was a windswept collection of small towns, brutally hot in the summer and cold-to-the-bone just a few months later when prep football was in full swing.

 

Victor Valley and Barstow used to be the only high schools for miles around. Every year they would play for the axe, a rivalry that still exists.

 

Enter Apple Valley High School in 1969. The new school in a city adjoining Victorville opened, and a rivalry was born.

 

"The Battle for the Bell" is what they call it and the rivals will meet at 7 p.m. today (Friday) at Apple Valley's Newton T. Bass Stadium to determine local bragging rights.

 

"No matter what sport you're playing throughout the year, if you lose the Bell Game, you're going to hear ‘Ding-dong, ding-dong' from the other side," Apple Valley coach Frank Pulice said. "If we lose this game and our kids go to the Victorville mall, they'll hear it."

 

Fortunately for Pulice, his team is favored. The Sun Devils (2-0) have one of their better teams in several years. Victor Valley (0-3) is struggling.

 

But it was the same in 2000 when a winless Victor Valley team met a 3-1 Apple Valley team. The Jackrabbits, led by the quarterback play of Brian Eudy and a late touchdown run by Kenny Thompson, stunned the Sun Devils.

 

"I think that was my favorite Bell Game," said Leland Eudy, veteran coach of the Jackrabbits and the father of Brian. "We weren't supposed to win that game."

 

Apple Valley leads the series 24-13. Included are forfeited Victor Valley triumphs in 1994 and 2000, both for ineligible players.

 

The 1994 Jackrabbit victory is perhaps the most memorable in the history of the rivalry. Trailing by one point in overtime, then-Victor Valley coach Art Sanchez gambled and went for a two-point conversion.

 

Maurice Brown took a handoff around the right side, bounced off several Sun Devil defenders and bulled into the end zone. The pulse-pounding victory ignited a wild victory celebration at Ray Moore Stadium.

 

Victor Valley's team raced to the Apple Valley side to re-claim the bell. Meantime, Jackrabbit fans descended upon the field and turned it into a big mosh pit.

 

It was a bitter defeat for Pulice, who was then the defensive coordinator under former coach Steve Morgan.

 

"I was emotionally drained," Pulice said. "You hate to lose in a situation like that."

 

Such standouts as running back Anthony Ambers, wideout Corry Johnson and quarterback Phil Rivera will lead the Apple Valley offense tonight. The defense is paced by linebacker Ronald Spears and linemen Jordan Bernal (6-3, 240) and Chris Barr (6-4, 240).

 

Victor Valley is led by quarterback Brandon Shanklin, lineman Brandon Tafoya, slotback/cornerback Daniel Diaz and running back Rashard McCoy.

 

Neither team is ranked among the top 10 in San Bernardino County, and haven't been for a while. And, yet, this game couldn't mean more to the local citizenry, with a large crowd expected.

 

The High Desert has changed considerably since the birth of this rivalry. Businesses have popped up left and right, real estate is booming and the cities of Victorville and Apple Valley both have two high schools now, with the new schools siphoning off a considerable amount of talent.

 

But some traditions don't die easily. Case in point is Apple Valley students arriving to school Wednesday to see Victor Valley green and black paint adorning the Sun Devil gymnasium and cafeteria.

 

That didn't surprise Eudy in the least.

 

"They got our stadium last year," Eudy said. "When I played they would hang rabbits all over the campus before the game. Then during the game they would throw them at us from the stands."

 


 

Athletic directors or coaches who would like to suggest a player, coach or game to be featured may contact prepca.com football editor John Faulkner at john4sf@hotmail.com.

 


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