BOONVILLE - The marquee, rivalry showdown is finally here.
Crosstown bitter rivals Starmount and Elkin clash in Boonville tonight in the annual Battle of the Bridge match-up that brings both communities together.
Dating back to 1967, the annual Battle of the Bridge meeting has headlined both schools’ schedules each season in a game for town supremacy and bragging rights.
The Elks owned the series early on, winning the first 10 games before Starmount finally tasted victory in 1977. The Rams then dominated the rivalry from 1983-2000, losing only once in 1988.
Overall, Starmount leads the series 27-17.
With a rivalry with more than 30 years of tradition, the annual match-up was missing a unique moniker that embodied the town. In 1998, WIFM 100.9 radio personality Joel Hooper changed all that, coining the term “Battle of the Bridge.”
“I knew it was something big,” he said. “So many college teams play for something, like Appalachian State and Western Carolina play for the Old Mountain Jug. I thought to myself, the Elkin-Starmount game needs something like that.”
In a 2010 story from The Tribune, Hooper said he wanted to give the rivalry a name that the town could connect with. After considering the Yadkin River, Hooper decided on the Hugh Chatham Memorial Bridge because it drew the two communities together and connected them.
“I thought of [the name] on a hot August morning. I rode to the bridge to take a photo. I was there maybe 15 minutes and I looked up and saw a chunk of the bridge that had fallen. I thought to myself, this is it. This has to be made into the trophy,” he explained.
Hooper took the piece of the bridge to a trophy store in Jonesville to have it made into the Battle of the Bridge trophy, handed out each year to the winning team in the series.
“It took a few years to catch on. I remember a few times having to chase the teams into the locker room to give them the trophy,” Hooper said.
The moniker finally caught on and the Battle of the Bridge has become a marquee match-up each season, despite each teams’ record heading into the game.
Since the term was coined in 1998, the series has been somewhat one-sided, favoring Starmount. The Rams have won 11 of the 14 meetings, while the Elks have not been able to win back-to-back trophies.
Starmount has won the last six match-ups, while Elkin’s hasn’t hoisted the trophy since a 34-14 victory in 2005. The Elks captured a 34-10 win on the field in 2006, but the use of ineligible players caused a double-forfeit.
Despite struggling to top its most fierce rival, Elkin captured four 1A state championships last decade (2002-03, 2005-06), winning the Battle of the Bridge in three of those four seasons, with the exception being 2002.
This year’s match-up has a different feel to it with the game kicking off the Mountain Valley Conference schedule for both squads, who are looking to open league play on a high note.
The Buckin’ Elks enter the meeting with the better overall record at 3-1, sitting tied atop the conference standings with North Wilkes (3-1), while The Rams are chomping at the bit, entering the game with a 2-2 mark.
With both teams off to fast starts to the 2012 season, this year’s edition of the Battle of the Bridge has all the makings of being a hard-fought, intense rivalry game.
And that’s how it should be.
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or email@example.com.