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Colorado River Rivalry continues

November 06, 2019 - 00:00
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  • Colorado River Rivalry continues
    Courtesy | Nesbitt Memorial Library, Colorado County Citizen archives A story from the Nov. 13, 1980 edition of the Colorado County Citizen featured a photograph from the Cardinal/Raider rivalry that year. Cardinal defender Tony Boone tried to

The rivalry between two schools situated across the river from one another, Eagle Lake High School (later consolidated with Garwood, Rock Island and Sheridan to form Rice High School) and Columbus High School, goes back nearly a century.

The rivalry was set to begin in 1926, but Columbus, with a new coach totally uneducated in the game, and a football team without a field to practice or play on, cancelled their first game that was set against Eagle Lake on Sept. 25.

The reason for the cancellation was that Columbus did not have enough players.

The 1927 team, now bearing the name Columbus Cardinals, took on the Eagle Lake Eagles and lost 33-0. Thus, the Colorado River Rivalry was born.

The Cardinals, under the leadership of new coach J.H. Harry, won the matchup against the Eagle Lake Eagles in 1929. It was the biggest game of that season, because former Columbus coach, Otis Coffey, left Columbus to take the coaching job in Eagle Lake. Coffey switched teams so that he could coach Eagle Lake football star Bill Wallace.

Wallace ended up missing the Columbus - Eagle Lake game due to illness, and the Cardinals secured the upset win.

But the good times didn’t last for long.

The 1930 season was plagued with discord between Cardinal coach Harry and Cardinal fans and players. When the Cardinals met up with Coffey, Wallace and the Eagle Lake Eagles team this time, it ended in an 88-0 blowout, the worst in Cardinal history.

By 1932, Ben Gustine was coaching the Cardinals, and the Cards fared no better against Eagle Lake for a few years, including 1935 when the game ended with a 0-0 tie.

The Cardinals and Eagles didn’t meet on the gridiron again until 1944, reportedly due to hostility between the fans of the two teams.

The teams kept the rivalry tight with near equal wins and losses throughout the 1940s-1950s.

District changes during school years 1956-1968 kept the Cardinals and Eagles from playing each other. In 1968 and 1969, the two rivals met up with the Cardinals taking the 54-13 and 49-0 Eagle victories respectively.

The newly formed Rice Consolidated Raiders took the field in their 1970 inaugural season and were handed a 25-7 loss from the Cardinals.

The Cardinals would go on to dominate the rivalry through the end of the decade, with Rice only winning twice against the Cardinals.

In 1980, the tide changed slightly for the Raiders, and the decade ended with five wins for the Cardinals and five for the Raiders.

The 1990s are widely regarded as the dynasty years for the Cardinals. Coaches Bob Gillis (1990-1991) and Tommy Bludau (1992-2000) led the Cardinals to seven playoff appearances in that decade.

Rice didn’t win a single matchup against the Cardinals in the 1990s.

A change in leadership for the Rice football program also brought a change in the win/loss record for Rice.

The teams only met up six games in the first decade of the 2000s, and each matchup, led by Raider coach Brad Dumont, yielded a win for the Raiders.

District changes once again kept the two from regular competitions, however, in 2018, the two teams battled for the District Championship title at a jam-packed Cardinal stadium. In the final seconds of an intense game, the Raiders scored a TD, sealing a 27-24 win.

As long as the river keeps rolling along, a rivalry that began 92 years ago will continue for years to come.

* Historical information in this story was compiled from Nesbitt Memorial Library.