Not many communities in Wisconsin can boast of a richer history or tradition when it comes to high school football than Wausau.
The legendary names include National Football League Hall of Famers Jim Otto and Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch and longtime pro lineman Jeff Dellenbach, who played for the University of Wisconsin and Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers during his day.
And don't forget about Coach Win Brockmeyer. He fashioned a 72-2-4 record during the 1940s, including a 46-game winning streak, and compiled a 230-33-9 mark and won 15 Valley titles and 11 Big Rivers crowns during a tenure that lasted from 1937-1970.
Brockmeyer's final season in charge issued in a new era in local sports as Wausau High School became East and West. That split also issued in the Log Game, a traveling trophy depicting the area's connection to the lumber industry and the spoils for the victor of an annual grudge match on the gridiron.
Friday night's showdown at venerable Thom Field, built in 1951, is the Wisconsin Valley Conference opener for both teams.
East's Lumberjacks entered with a 0-2 record but have won their last two confrontations against the Warriors, who hold a 23-15 series lead.
West's last victory was a 16-14 decision in 2005 in which quarterback Nick Anker ran for the winning score on the game's final play, a scenario that has played out often in this hard-fought matchup.
Greg Harvey knew all about prep head-knockers such as this before he coached West for 11 seasons from 1993-2003, winning the Log eight times. That's because Harvey graduated from Rhinelander in 1980, where he and his father, Pete, suited up for the Hodags against Antigo in the Bell Trophy game.
"The Log Game is a huge deal and you don't really gain a full appreciation until you see what it means to everybody else," said Harvey, who currently teaches at East, his former adversary. "With the teams it's obvious, but it's such a great environment because it encompasses the entire city, it means bragging rights and pits those on one side of the river against the other.
"It's the game of the year, and even though the other sports have their rivalries, football carries the most weight," Harvey added. "The thing is that it's a year-round thing. You can be at a basketball game and hear people talking about it."
Harvey said the setting also adds to the electric atmosphere that surrounds the contest.
"Depending on the weather, you'll get 5,000 to 6,000 spectators," Harvey said. "I'd say it fits about 2,700 on one side and 1,000 on the other, and then they bring in extra bleachers and other fans encircle the field. People fill the hillside, and the people are out on the balconies of the houses next to the stadium.
"The trophy is an added element, the winners making a mad dash to get their hands on it," Harvey added. "And it's not just the players, but tons of people from the community, which leads to long picture-taking sessions afterward. It's all what's great about high school football."
Harvey said that it's obvious when one team's trophy case features the Log, and when it doesn't. It's just another significant piece to a colorful rivalry, especially considering that neither team has enjoyed much success in the WVC.
East has never won a league football crown, while West ate its only piece of the championship pie in 1993 when it shared the title with Stevens Point and D.C. Everest.
Dellenbach graduated from East in 1981 and echoed many of Harvey's sentiments about what it was like to battle against your neighbors.
"When I played, East was the smallest school in the conference and West was the biggest or second-largest," Dellenbach said. "So when we played and beat them, it meant a lot. It was special and tough because you knew a lot of the kids, played baseball with some of them on traveling teams in the summer.
"It was always a strong rivalry," said Dellenbach, a Florida resident whose parents still live in Wausau. "That conference always had good players and coaches. The traditions run pretty deep and so the game means a lot, and the trophy added more to it and so you got more out of the players."