Friday night lights, just hearing that term will warm the heart of American high school football fans. Some of these contests are small and some are very big. I’d like to highlight one such game that is touted as the oldest high school rivalry west of the Mississippi and 17th oldest rivalry for a high school in the United States. In Pueblo Colorado since the late 1800’s, two high schools, Central and Centennial play once a year for an old Locomotive bell. The winner is awarded possession of the bell and it’s painted in that schools colors for the year until the next year’s contest.
The game is regularly held at Earl “Dutch” Clark stadium and has anywhere between 15,000-17,000 fans attend, which is roughly 15 percent of the town’s total population. Build up to the game is a week long for both schools. The rivalry brings out the high school spirit of the entire community and even gets statewide attention at times and was honored by the Denver Broncos as their first “H.S. Game of the Week ” in 2012. Outside of the schools during “Bell Week” the schools have to post security to ensure that the schools are not vandalized by partisans of either school.
There is much to be proud of for both schools. Central High School was founded 1881 and is the only high school in the nation to have two Medal of Honor reciepants. Central’s mascot is a Wildcat and they dress in blue. Centennial was founded 1876 and was the high school that David Packard (Hewlett Packard co founder) graduated from. Centennial’s mascot is a Bulldog and they dress in red. When either school wins the winning phrase is “The Bell rings blue/red”
If you are one of the people that has a deep and abiding love for prep football it is worth at least one trip to Pueblo to watch this classic. A few things to keep in mind is that Tickets usually go on sale around mid-September and will usually sell out within a few days. This is a standing room only matchup so a person will want to be well prepared to stand and sometimes the weather can be downright frigid! This game at times has been very rowdy too but you will see an entire community come together to celebrate their history!
” THE BELL GAME” The Denver Post, October 17, 1993; Page 7C