It took 80 years for two schools separated by roughly 21 miles to renew a high school football rivalry.
Finally, Durango and Bayfield scheduled each other for a pair of home games for the 2016 and 2017 seasons. After the two teams meet again Friday night, nothing is certain about when they will play again, though both schools hope another 80-year wait is not in store.
“We think it's a great game and good for the whole area,” Durango High School Athletic Director Adam Bright said. “We would love to see this game continue. Two great teams and two great schools so close to each other, we certainly don't want to wait another 50 years to play again.”
Non-league schedules haven't yet been made for next season. The Colorado High School Activities Association will reassess classifications and leagues before next season based on student counts, and Durango will wait until those decisions are made to solidify next year's schedule.
“BHS is a team we want to keep playing,” Bright said. “When the timing is right to line things up, they will be my first call.”
Last year's first meeting in 80 years was an instant classic. Exactly one year ago, Bayfield traveled to face Durango and was greeted by an ice storm before kickoff. The teams played to a 6-6 tie through four quarters in a defensive struggle for the ages. In overtime, it was the Bayfield defense that cracked first when it allowed a fourth-down touchdown pass from Peyton Woolverton to Jacob Bourdon. Bayfield's offense had one more chance, but a Dawson Marcum interception won the game for the Demons.
BHS still has never beat the Demons, with an 0-14-1 all-time record against the La Plata County rival. This year, both teams enter ranked in the top 10 in their respective classifications, with DHS No. 8 in Class 3A and BHS No. 2 in Class 2A.
Many of the players are different, but the colors are the same for the next chapter of an historic rivalry whose future is again uncertain.
“We know there's something special about to happen,” BHS senior Hunter Killough said. “It's a huge rivalry game. Bayfield hasn't ever beat Durango. It's in the back of our mind.”
A look back at the rivalryIn Durango, there were Thanksgiving Day games as far back as 1901 when the high school “boys” played the “Smelter” team. In those early years, if the boys could not get enough players, they would recruit from the community. It's fairly certain that the first game played in the Four Corners between two high schools did have strict enrollment requirements. That was in 1903 when Montrose came down on the “Southern” (Rio Grande Southern Railroad) by way of Telluride to challenge DHS. Durango won, 11-0, in the days when a touchdown was five points, a field goal was also worth five and the extra point was worth one.
By the start of World War I, football dropped off for the high schools. Aztec and Farmington played each other in 1911 and 1913, but no other high school games were played during the war years. Then the influenza epidemic came along in 1919, killing millions worldwide. Some communities banned public gatherings entirely.
Finally in 1923, all three major high schools in the area decided to field football teams. Durango, being the largest school, divided its team into two squads, labeled the Reds and Whites. A rivalry in the halls of DHS became fierce, as the Whites called the Reds “Bolsheviks” and hung a white bedsheet on the building to signify how they would “tuck the Bolsheviks into bed when they met.” Aztec and Farmington were the other combatants. A loving cup was shared by the Whites and Reds in 1923 as they finished the double round-robin schedule with 4-2 records. Aztec was 2-3-1. Farmington was 1-4-1.
In 1924, football fever reached Bayfield, and it decided to field a team. They played games from mid-October through Thanksgiving. Bayfield scheduled the Durango “seconds” of coach Cecil Young for a Saturday afternoon game in late October. Durango won, 31-0.
They had a rematch at the Bayfield Fairgrounds, and, again, the Durango youngsters bested Bayfield, 24-0. It was the first game played in the Pine River Valley. Bayfield's only other games that initial season were against the town team, which they split. The Demons – yes, they were the Demons back then – would again go undefeated in league play against Aztec and Farmington. They also had a win against Monte Vista and a loss in the regular season to Center in the San Luis Valley. DHS would go on to the state playoffs and lose 47-0 to powerhouse Pueblo Central in a quarterfinal game.
Bayfield and Durango matched up varsity teams for the first time in 1925. DHS was hungry for competition after Monte Vista canceled because of bad roads, as did Norwood. A trip to Center in bad weather with car trouble dominated the storyline. The score was not mentioned in the article that described the “three Fords and a Buick” that left Durango for the game, stopping for lunch in Pagosa Springs but did not arrive at Center until 3 a.m. the next day. On the way back over Wolf Creek Pass – a one-lane gravel road – the players had to carry the cars over snowdrifts.
Even the Bayfield game was postponed. It was scheduled for Oct. 30, a Friday. The Durango Democrat said, “The Bayfield boys had to stay home and dig potatoes. They wanted to dig on Saturday, but their fathers insisted they dig the potatoes on Friday.” So the game was rescheduled for Nov. 21, the day after Durango traveled to Farmington to beat those “Apple Pickers,” 13-0. Durango prevailed in that first game over Bayfield, 13-0. They played again on Thanksgiving, and Durango won 21-0.
Bayfield did not field a team in 1926 because of an epidemic, and it would not put a team together again until 1930. Through 1936, they played Durango 13 times and failed to win a game, tying the Demons in 1930.
Bayfield quit football after 1936 and did not revive the game until it mistakenly scheduled Farmington to open the 1947 season. Bayfield had Army tank helmet liners and only 13 players. The freshman quarterback broke his arm on the first play, and the Scorpions went on to win 60-0 in a game that apparently had all of the scoring in the first half.
In 1934, Durango played in the state championship game in Class B to Brighton and lost. The Demons reached the semifinals before losing to Lakewood in 1946, and then won it all – well, at least half of it – in 1954 when they tied Lamar for the title.
Bayfield's fortunes changed starting in the 1960s. It won the league and advanced to state twice but failed to win that first game. By 1990, it was winning playoff games. The Wolverines became the first Southwest Colorado school to win the title since 1954 when it won in 1996, and again in 2015.
email@example.com. Dan Ford is a football historian. He can be reached at www.danfordsports.net.