ELKIN - The highlights of any sports season are the marquee rivalry games.
North Carolina and Duke play in the Tobacco Road Rivalry. Oklahoma and Texas have the Red River Rivalry. Appalachian State and Western Carolina fight in the Battle for the Old Mountain Jug.
Here, there is no bigger rivalry than Elkin and Starmount in the Battle of the Bridge.
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 matchup 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 matchup 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 10 of the 13 meetings, while the Elks have not been able to win back-to-back trophies.
Starmount has won the last five matchups, 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.