While talking to a group of Marshfield football coaches, I was asked a question: are you ready for the Civil War?
To my Eugene-native brain, this question didn’t seem to make much sense coming at the end of August. I mean, I’m always ready for the Ducks and Beavers to play but now seems like a weird time to be focused on a game that comes after Thanksgiving. But UO and OSU were not the topic of this question. No, he meant the more important Civil War to this area: Marshfield vs. North Bend.
There is something special about a good high school rivalry. Having gone to Marist (sorry), we just didn’t have many rivals. Certainly lots of schools disliked us — and still do! — but there was not one school that warranted a real mutual disdain. There was a run when Elmira was a solid foe and same with Sisters there for a few years. And then I just had a personal vendetta against Summit. But for as heated as those games may have been, there was something missing. There was no deep history or mutual dislike that stretched back.
But the last two years while working at the Cottage Grove Sentinel I had the chance to cover a Douglas County rivalry between North Douglas and Elkton. Now this is a real rivalry.
Seemingly everyone in each of these small towns knows everyone in the other town. There are plenty of former students of each school sitting in the stands watching their kids or grandkids participate in this same rivalry that they played in. Everyone has a story about their favorite game or moment when they bested that other school.
When these two schools face off, regardless of the sport, the stands are full and the atmosphere is charged. That is the place to be on that day. North Douglas, seeped in its tradition and the fact that it was recently a Class 2A school, has had the recent upper hand. But the Elks, looking to get out of the shadow of their big brother, have found recent success and made the rivalry, well, a rivalry.
But for all the interest and joy that I took in covering North Douglas and Elkton, the towns are still separated by 20 miles and both schools are small. So what happens when the schools are even closer to each other and the towns are bigger? Then you get Marshfield-North Bend.
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“Marshfield-North Bend is just a legacy,” explained North Bend senior Cory Livingston. “When you play in that game, no matter what team you are on, you’re always looking forward to that game to see who is the best in town.”
In the four weeks since I have moved to the area, students, coaches and some especially excited fans from both schools have talked to me, unprompted, about this game. It is not just a game but is the game. A game wrapped in history, it is one date that is circled on calendars for players of both sides.
This Friday, the next chapter of this rivalry is written. Though it is a nonleague contest, it has all the excitement of a league championship. And it helps that both teams have high aspirations coming into the season.
“North Bend has had a good run. (Head Coach) Gary Prince has done a good job and they’ve had a lot of really athletic kids. And they’re going to be really good this year,” said Marshfield head coach John Lemmons.
Despite Marshfield’s recent run of success, North Bend has won nine of the last 10 meetings between the teams. And the Bulldogs are looking for more of the same this year.
“It’s not going to be a good game for them,” said North Bend senior Divenson Willis. “I have full confidence that we’re going to take it to the house. It’s going to be fun.”
While I don’t know who is going to win this latest edition of this game, I’m ready for my first Civil War.