Border School Football Rivalries Voted Among Nation's Best
December 16, 2013
Las
Courtesy of Jake Frietze
Las Cruces High School fans rush the field after the New Mexico state football championship on Dec. 7.

There are many things that can make a high school sports rivalry great: pride, competition, geography, generations and tradition.

But which high school football rivalry is the best in the nation? USA Today Sports has been running a contest since November, soliciting votes for the top matchup. Now, of the 10 nationwide finalists, two are based in border cities.

In New Mexico, the annual Las Cruces/Mayfield game is described as such:

Dating back to 1967, the popularity of the state's most intense high school rivalry inspired a documentary, "Cruces Divided". The annual matchup is played in November at New Mexico State and draws a crowd pushing 30,000.

While Mayfield pulled the upset during the regular-season game in November, Las Cruces took the title when the two teams met for the state championship on Dec. 7.

And Arizona's noted rivalry is between two small border towns, Bisbee and Douglas:

This rivalry began in 1906, when Bisbee defeated Douglas 7-6. The coveted Copper Pick has been awarded to the winner of the game since 1945. Until 1955, the teams met twice a season; once before Thanksgiving and once on the Friday after Thanksgiving. This year's meeting marked the 143rd game in the series.

The game between these two old mining towns predates Arizona statehood. When the game is hosted in Bisbee, the teams play at historic Warren Ballpark, which dates to 1909 and is one of the oldest professional baseball stadiums in the country. Bisbee won this year's game, 20-13.

Warren
Courtesy of Jacob Pomrenke
Warren Ballpark in Bisbee, Ariz. doubles as a high school football field for one of the nation's top rivalries.

In last year's USA Today Sports contest, Bisbee/Douglas finished second nationally to a pair of Missouri schools.

Of the thousands of high school football team across the country, why would four schools within 40 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border make the cut for "greatest?"

I have a few theories, but first, a disclosure: As a proud graduate of Mayfield, and daughter of a teacher, I didn't miss a Las Cruces/Mayfield game in the first 20 years of my life. Go Trojans.

And the above paragraph helps support the first part of my theory: There is a great deal of generational support for the schools in question. For decades the small towns of the West had just one, maybe two public high schools, so strong loyalties were entrenched. Grandchildren are now suiting up for the same schools their grandparents graduated from.

But this is only part of the equation, and something that is certainly duplicated in small towns across the country.

What is unique to the border region is isolation from other forms of sports entertainment. Las Crucens tend to be Dallas Cowboys fans, but that franchise is located 10 hours away. Bisbee may as well be on the moon as it relates to the Arizona Cardinals.

Fans who want to watch live football, or just cheer on the neighbor kid, are attending the local high school games. 

In the first round of this year's USA Today contest, fans voted online for one of five in-state rivalries. Winners advanced to the regional contest, with the final round being the national contest. New Mexico's Las Cruces/Mayfield game had the most overall votes in the regional round with 220,459.

The USA Today Sports contest ends Dec. 18.