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Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016

Oldest rivalry needs a kick in the pants

Friday, September 13, 2002

Most high school football fans in the state of Missouri are aware of the Sikeston-Charleston rivalry.

In many circles, it has long been considered the oldest rivalry west of the Mississippi River. There are other schools, like Kirkwood and Webster Groves, that claim to have the oldest.

But most people you talk to recognize Sikeston and Charleston as the longest ongoing series. The two have met 116 times for nearly 100 years. It's unclear when the first game was actually played. I've seen accounts that have said the mid-1900s to 1910.

It has been a storied series between the two schools long before its current players, or even coaches, were born.

But is it the best?

The series, which has been controlled by Sikeston since the outset, is getting even more one-sided with each passing year.

Sikeston owns an 81-31-4 advantage in the series. But even more importantly, Sikeston has won 11 of the last 12 meetings and they don't appear to be slowing down any.

Under head coach Charlie Vickery, the Bulldogs have won 20 of the 24 meetings.

Charleston's last win came in 1996. Before that, it was 1989.

Many of the games have been close, but since '98, the Bulldogs have won by an average score of 36-17.

Sikeston is favored once again in this year's matchup.

Charleston head coach Brent Anderson thinks the rivalry has lost some of its luster over the years, saying the long history is the one thing keeping it alive.

"The bottom line is, it's hard for it to be a great rivalry unless you go back and forth a little bit," said Anderson. "The thing that keeps this rivalry so good is the fact that it's gone on for so long. These are bordering towns, there's a lot of competition, and it's a good old rivalry, but they have basically dominated for the last 15 years."

But even with the one-sidedness of the series, the games bring out fans in droves every year. Both teams can count on the matchup to bring out one of the largest crowds of the year.

There are still plenty of cool quirks, like the running of the gameball between the two towns and the skydivers that parachute onto the field before the game. And both schools get to showcase each other's band every year, which is something you don't usually see at other high school games.

Perhaps some people come out to the stadium for the festivities surrounding the event.

But Vickery says that Sikeston has been on long winning streaks before, and the series survived those.

"I'll see people at the Sikeston-Charleston game that you won't see at any other game," said Vickery. "I still think it means a lot to both teams. Even when Sikeston was on long streaks, you can look back at the '50s and '60s and there was a tremendous amount of interest in the game. I still think there is. That's just the way we look at it."

True, Sikeston won 17 straight games from 1948 to 1964. The ecstatic Bluejay fans tore down the goalposts after winning in 1965.

Compared to that, Sikeston has won a measly five times in a row. So maybe things aren't as bad as they seem. Of course, things certainly aren't bad for Sikeston. But Anderson and the Bluejays would like to see their name on the winner's side for a change.

"It's an exciting game every year -- it's a good rivalry for both towns and both schools," said Anderson. "Obviously there's a lot of hype around it with it being one of the oldest games west of the Mississippi. But we're going to have to win one before too long."