Saturday, November 1, 2008

Ventura County's Oldest H.S. Football Rivalry

Santa Paula (5-2, 1-0 Frontier League)
at Fillmore (7-1, 2-0 Frontier League)

On Friday night I opted to go see the 98th renewal of "Ventura County's Oldest High School Football Rivalry", as the Santa Paula Cardinals traveled to Fillmore to play the host Flashes. I have never had a chance to see this legendary game so I made the 30 minute drive to see if Fillmore, coached by two of my good coaching friends Curtis Garner and Dave Wilde, could cut into Santa Paula's 54-36-7 series lead.

These two schools first started playing football games against each other in 1924. Santa Paula (population 32,500) and Fillmore (population 15,000) are both rural, farming communities that are one high school towns, a rarity in population rich Southern California.  These long time rivals are separated by only a 9 mile stretch of California's Highway 126 that cuts through acres and acres of rich farmland.

The Cheap Seats

I sat at the top of the bleachers to the left of the press box you see here with Liz Wilde, Dave's wife and a member of the Fillmore Unified School District Board of Education. The people of Fillmore are VERY proud of their new, state-of-the-art athletic facility. They did it the right way with a new scoreboard, new lights, an all-weather track and a modern, brightly colored synthetic turf field!

Still some people just can't cough up the $5 to get into the game so they set up camp outside the new, climb-proof fence to watch the game for free!
Fillmore Softball Dugout

Across the street and behind the Cheap Seats is the Fillmore H.S. softball field. The term "Lady Flashes" somehow worries me as an ex-educator.
The J.V. Game
with the Topa Topa foothills in the background.
I was advised to get to the stadium early as there would be a huge crowd, so I arrived at about 5:45 p.m. at halftime of what turned out to be a very exciting J.V. game. The Flashes would score a TD in the last minute of the game to win 14-11.

The 65 minute wait before the start of the Varsity game gave me time to catch up on what was going on in Fillmore and with the Wilde family as Liz and I had a smashing good conversation.

Flash's Fan Base

Loud and generally positive, this was small town America pride at its best.

Currently there are only stands on the home side of the field so the two schools sat side by side with only an aisle way at the 50 yard line serving as a dividing line. All was good because of the respect the two communities have for each other thus creating what has become a friendly rivalry. The announcer, the Mayor of Fillmore as it turns out, did a fine job keeping the crowd focused on being positive for their respective teams.  

Can you imagine this style of set-up for a Catania vs. Palermo calcio (soccer) game in Sicily?

Cardinal Mascots and Cheerleaders at the far end of the stands

The handsome "Captain Flash" mascot gets all the chicks!

Name three girls in the Fillmore student body who are NOT cheerleaders.


Keeping in the theme of friendly competition, the two schools' bands performed together at the break. Santa Paula in cardinal shirts while the Fillmore band members are in white.

The Flashes Driving for Pay Dirt

The first half was dominated by the Cardinals as they took a 28-0 lead into the locker room. The Flashes made some solid halftime adjustments and came out fired up for the second half scoring two quick TDs to cut the Santa Paula lead to 28-14.

In the end, Santa Paula was just the better team on this pleasant Halloween night in Fillmore, coming away with a 34-14 victory to take command of the Frontier League championship race.

The Fillmore Flashes play one more regular season game at home vs. 3-5 Grace Brethren next Friday to close out their regular season followed by a BYE week and then a trip to the C.I.F. playoffs.

Friday Night Lights
Fillmore Style

Dave Wilde
Fillmore Assistant Coach

One of the great things about coaching for 40 seasons is the relationships you make and the people you meet over the years. My friendship with Dave Wilde is definitely one of best of these.

Dave coached our DB's for several years at Rio Mesa when I was the Spartans head coach. Dave is a good coach and a good role model for kids and young teachers. Typical of him, he apologized to me about the Flash's performance on this rivalry night, no need, the Flashes played hard and never showed a sign of giving up. To me these are the signs of a well coached team that has players who play with tons of heart!

Curtis Garner also coaches at Fillmore and was my defensive coordinator at Rio Mesa. I did not get a chance to see him after the game because his wife Louise is in the hospital and he left immediately to be with her after the gun sounded to bring a close to this chapter of "Ventura County's Oldest High School Football Rivalry". I hope that Louise will be back on her feet soon and be her normal, outgoing self.

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