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SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

Bell Game 2023 Sneak Peek

In Pueblo, there are many traditions, but one of the most famous is the Bell Game, a high school rivalry between Central and Centennial High School. This rivalry, which dates back to 1892, is believed to be the oldest high school rivalry west of the Mississippi River. These two teams, the Central Wildcats in blue versus Centennial Bulldogs in red, compete for a railroad bell mounted on a cart along with the right to paint the bell mount the school colors. The bell is displayed in the halls of the winning school for all to enjoy. Bragging rights included. In order to see the full history of the Bell Game, however, we first have to understand the history of the high schools themselves.

Centennial:

Centennial was the first high school in Pueblo; it was established in 1873 and given its iconic name in 1876, the same year Colorado became a state, the Centennial state. Central was built a few years later and established in 1882. As of 2023, this will be the 123 Bell Game, also known as the “One Hundred Year War,” between Central and Centennial. The rivalry, however, did not become official until 1950. The standing overall score is Central 60 – Centennial 53, and the two teams have tied nine times. 

Centennial Athletic Director and Assistant Principal John Ward began his teaching career at Centennial in 1994. Ward says that the Bell Game is the time of year that is one of the most highly anticipated by not only the high schools but the community of Pueblo as well. Since the tradition is so old, many family loyalties lie with these high schools. “Because we are such a small community and only have six high schools, these rivalries have more of a meaning to the community than somewhere else like Denver where there are 15-20 high schools,” says Ward. About 15,000 people attend the event of the Bell Game every year. 

Centennial has been preparing for this year’s Bell Game since day one of the season. However, the bulldogs’ season has not been in their favor, with their season standing at 0-5 and Central currently at 4-1. With a younger team than in previous years, the Centennial Bulldogs have been practicing even harder to fight for their school pride to bring home the Bell.

The Bell Bash is one thing that gets Centennial ready to take the field. A fun school carnival for students and staff that boosts morale is held. There are various carnival games such as dunk tanks, prizes, and even a Bell Bash Car. This car is spray painted with the opposing school’s colors, and then students, families, and staff can pay to smash the car with sledgehammers. Along with the Bell Bash, a pep assembly is held to hype the student body for the game. 

 The Bulldogs prepare for the Bell Game with a Bell Game team dinner the night before, as well as practices and working on new plays they can use during the game. One ritual that Senior Ryan Martinez, the team’s quarterback,  does every year is that he gets a special sandwich from Pass Key. 

One ritual that the whole team participates in is a pregame prayer. They all take part in praying for the best that they can do, to bring pride to their school, play the best they can, and enjoy being a part of each and every game. When asked about the support the school and community give, Martinez says it’s one of the most important parts of the game that the team depends on. Along with his teammates, Isaiah Anaya, linebacker, and Emiliano Balderamma, receiver/strong safety, these seniors all agree that their school has so much love and pride for their school and the community they represent. This particular game is especially emotional for them as it is the last Bell Game of their high school careers. Anaya says that it’s even more fun every time Centennial wins because the rest of his family all attended Central. 

Head Coach Jeff Wilson also knows just how important that support is as well. “The support we receive from the Bell Game is what the difference is between the Bell Game and every other game.” This is also a big Bell Game for Wilson as well since this is his second Bell Game. The last Bell Game that Wilson was involved in was in 1988 as assistant coach to Central. Wilson says that working on new strategies and plays for the game has been one of the hardest parts of prepping for the game this year. The other has been the position of the quarterback, as there have been some injury issues this year. 

Central: 

Each school has its own sets of traditions within “Bell Week,” some similar and some very different. Central junior football player Joseph Castro said, “We always eat the day before our usual games but our biggest ‘day before feast,’ Coach Cotterman will usually have someone talk to us before…we play games as a team; we gotta eat as a team, too.”

The week leading up to the “Bell Game” is marked by excitement and nerves for both the Pueblo community and high schools playing to see the outcome of who will win the bell. “I feel like this week Orman Army and the community have really come together…we have a lot of cool little things that make bell weeks special week here in Pueblo,” senior Danny Vasquez said. Many other players expressed they were treating “Bell Game” as a much bigger deal than other games. Emphasizing that it’s THAT game. 

Centennial and Central play their hardest, pushing themselves to the limit to win the bell and have it painted in the color of their school. Senior Chris Bojorquez voiced, “we all (everyone on the team) have that grit in us which comes together really well with our chemistry when we perform as a team, just cause we’re all in it. Not just one person has each other’s backs.”

The support systems standing behind both the players and the schools are something you have a chance to witness with a full heart. Danny stated, “it is like no other feeling. Our class has the most school spirit in the first time in a while. This bell game is going to be extremely loud, it’ll probably be a blowout.” Borjorquez followed, voicing, “Especially with our class, they’re very much hyped just cause they’ve seen us grow from these players that didn’t know anything about the game to being players who have a chance as playoff contenders.”

Emotions are at an all-time high for both teams participating in the Bell Game. Bojorquez said, “It’s more memorable for me because it is my last ride. This is the last time I’m going to be able to ever do something like this, so being able to play one last time is really special to me.”

Pueblo is full of history, community, family, tradition, and so much more, and the Bell Game is a huge part of that. The Bell Game is a substantial part of what defines Pueblo’s identity as a town and community. Pueblo takes pride in itself, and the traditions it upholds; the Bell Game adds to that pride as being a Puebloan. So take pride this weekend, Pueblo, at the historical Bell Game rivalry between the Central Wildcats and Centennial Bulldogs. 

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