Bulldogs and Trojans: A Rivalry 60 Years in the Making
June 4, 2022
It’s near the end of the 4th quarter. San Rafael High School Bulldogs: 43, Terra Linda High School Trojans: 6. The clock is ticking. Five minutes to go. 2 minutes. A minute and a half left and the Bulldogs in the stands begin to flood the steps of the stadium’s bleachers to run onto the field while the Trojans are hesitant, yet holding onto a miracle, sit on the bleachers on the opposite end. Will this be the end of the 18-year TLHS Bell Game streak? Will SRHS take it back after 18 years of heart-wrenching losses?
Fifteen seconds. SRHS students begin to hop the fence of the bleachers to stand on the turf. Sophomore Quinn Madden runs back and forth with the large SRHS flag, raising student spirit. As the clock ticks, the Bulldog mascot excitedly waits alongside the cheer team. The buzzer sounds and the game is over and SRHS Bulldogs begin to flood Miller Field. The football team convenes in the middle of the turf cheering, and some crying, as the whole student body surrounds them jumping up and down as if they were at a high school dance. Coach Lubamersky walks proudly onto the field parting the red and white sea of students presenting the long-awaited Bell.
TLHS, on the other hand, is silent. This team has been on a winning streak for longer than some of these boys have been alive. As they walked into the game with their heads held high in hopes of winning, they leave with a devastating loss. As students jump and cheer in the middle of the turf, the Trojans athletes are driven to work harder next season and to take back what is theirs.
“Winning the Bell is what I’ve been working towards my 4 years of high school,” said Luke Davis, a senior at SRHS, “I’ve been working so hard to get the win that when we got it, all I felt was pure happiness.” Davis has been on the football team since his freshman year as a right tackle and middle linebacker and made it his goal to put an end to this consistent losing streak.
The big question is, how long has this competitiveness been going on between these schools? San Rafael High School was founded in 1888 and was a campus hotspot. “SRHS had tons of families and all kinds of kids on campus. There wasn’t enough space for everyone, so they opened TLHS,” said current SRHS teacher and TLHS alumni, Ashley Ayoob. TLHS opened in 1960 in order to cater to the sudden increase of students on SRHS’s campus which brought an everlasting tension between the campuses. Friends who went to the same schools before were now separated which sparked their drive to beat one another in everything they did, or as Ayoob calls it “warring of the high schools.”
A football and baseball player for the Bulldogs in the late ’50s, Al Lamperti, told us that “I didn’t pay much attention, we just played ball.” Rivalries back then were less spirited and focused more on playing the game than having a higher win-to-loss ratio. It didn’t matter who they played, all that mattered was that their team won and their ratings went up. Davis, who also participated in the rivalry as a varsity basketball, and baseball player, says, “Back then, SR used to be THE school that everyone was trying to beat. Then MC (Marin Catholic) became a thing.” SRHS in particular was a very competitive school for sports, but their spirit was subpar.
As TLHS made their first appearance in Marin, SRHS finally found a worthy opponent to call their rivals. This rivalry would later go on for 60+ years with a vast amount of spirit throughout both schools, and the community as well. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, SRHS and TLHS would have rallies that wouldn’t only advertise the biggest sporting events for the school year, but would also have games that students would participate in to welcome them back to school. Now, the schools make simple announcements over the loudspeaker saying when and where the JV and Varsity games would take place.
However, in the late 1960s student attendance and enthusiasm surrounding the Bell Game were through the roof. Current security guard and alumni at TLHS told us that when the game was held at TLHS, all the fans and players in the crowd would make their way to Shakey’s Pizza in Terra Linda afterward. Lines would be out the door full of blue and gold and red and white teenagers who occasionally broke out into fights outside of the restaurant.
During the 1987 Bell Game, a news team had two people, Tucker Rivers and Michael Firenzi, introduce and broadcast the entire game live on Viacom Cable. The reporters introduced both teams, who their star players were that season, and both teams’ stats in the past 2 years.
Ben Johnson has worked at SRHS for over 20 years. Johnson has personally seen the change in spirit throughout his years at SRHS. In the past, the school had traditions that are extremely different from what they have today, such as bonfires before the Bell Game. “They piled up the wood and then they had the band and cheerleaders there. And then they had a bonfire. And everybody would be out there, you know, and the cheerleaders would be doing chants and it was so much more spiritual,” said Johnson while describing traditions practiced by SRHS students. Johnson has seen so many generations come and go in his time at the red and white school, it was sad to see how much the school he grew to love dimmed out over time. When asked why he thought such drastic changes happened to such a spirited school, he responded with, “I guess, just change and just transition, but people didn’t keep up traditions. So traditions kind of get forgotten.”
The spirited energy has not only lowered at SRHS. TLHS’s spirit has also died down. “I believe that it’s not essential to have more spirit, but the rivalry games are unparalleled,” said Faith Coleman, a senior at TLHS. Coleman has been a part of the Trojan cheer team since her freshman year and a part of various clubs that her school offers (Scream Team, Friendship & Interact Club).
Scream Team is one of TLHS’ most unique and interesting clubs they have available for all students. Scream Team is a student-run club that recruits a bunch of students on campus to go to all the sports games to cheer on their teams. Its primary purpose is to increase school spirit and to overpower the opposing audience at these games. Scream Team promotes every game over their social media platforms, communicating with the teams to determine what the theme of each game is and whether the game is home or away.
For every senior class at TLHS, they’re able to purchase a $15 senior spirit box, which includes intense TLHS merchandise: a senior jersey with a bright 22 on the back, a keychain, sunglasses and beaded necklace, a bumper sticker, and a water bottle. For $15, it’s not a bad deal and a great way to show off their school spirit.
Before entering high school, I (Elisabeth Fox) didn’t know much about the two schools. All I knew was that SRHS was the school that hosted the Summerfest Carnival and TLHS is where I had my middle school choir concerts. It wasn’t until the end of eighth grade did I start to see how much these two schools meant to each other, in both a friendly and competitive manner. During 8th grade at Davidson Middle School, if someone said they were going to TLHS for high school, there was a feeling of betrayal stirring inside. As senior Anderson Reyes said, “it [rivalry] comes naturally. You try to be better than them.”
As a student-athlete for SRHS, the fire between these two campuses shines the moment we step onto the court. Seeing a friend of mine I grew up playing volleyball with on the other side of the net, playfully insulting and congratulating each other, is something that’s found on every sports team. It happens on the basketball court, the football and soccer field, the baseball and softball field, you name it. This loving bond between friends can easily turn into competition in a second.
A night I’ll never forget is my senior night volleyball season. We played the TLHS Trojans that night. What seemed like the whole student body from both schools showed up to cheer on their respective teams, but also diss the opposing one. Not only were the 5 seniors and 10 underclassmen on the team pumped, but so were our fans. Posters were being made, not just for us seniors, but to “put the Trojans to shame.” Such as the infamous ‘At Least We’re Not A Condom Brand’ poster with condom packs plastered all over the remaining white space next to the big, bold, red letters. The Trojans did the same for us Bulldogs. After winning a 5 set game, this friendly battle continued on social media.
The Girl’s Volleyball team posted a celebratory post about their insane win on Instagram that night and the comment section blew up. Sarcastic insults about the Bell Game began to circulate in the comment section which resulted in comebacks from SRHS football players warning them to “prepare to lose the bell” and TLHS responding with optimistic “Go Trojans”, in regards to the condom poster, with blue and gold hearts following suit. This continued back and forth until the Bell Game approached, and the rest is history.
As much as we think that the competitive spirit only exists on the playing field, that’s not the case. The rivalry extends into school extracurriculars, such as ASB, and the Associated Student Body. “You can never tell who is copying who,” said SRHS senior Jackson Kosinski. It’s rumored that both classes like to take inspiration from one another’s Instagram posts in an attempt to one-up each other.
After taking a small poll of a sample of students in the halls, 3 believe that the rivalry and spirited pride extends outside of athletics and 4 believe that it doesn’t. But, all 7 of them said that no matter what it is, they just have to beat SRHS/TLHS. “It’s definitely a different atmosphere than in athletics, but it’s there. It just needs a push,” said an SRHS junior who wishes to stay anonymous.
In the late ’80s, the Trojans and Bulldogs had what they called prank wars. They were constantly pranking one another. Kosinski told us that when his father was a student at SRHS (in the late 80s), the prank wars included TLHS dyeing SRHS’s pool a different color and in return SRHS throwing mattresses onto TLHS’s field. This is just the beginning of the type of pranks that these competitors played on one another, but they also tried to one-up each other when it came to their senior class pranks. Whatever SRHS did, TLHS wanted to do one better. The feeling was mutual on the other end.
After a peak in school spirit in the early 2000s to early 2010s, student engagement and spirited behavior have rapidly declined. “School spirit can seem tacky, corny, or lame and all that. But if you really dial in the chemistry, and frankly, if you have at least 1 popular sports team within your school that’s really doing well, that can galvanize people to go to the games,” said Patrick Nissim, a TLHS alumni from 2007, when asked if he thought school spirit would come back stronger in the following years.
Even though beating the other team, especially your rivals, is a highlight in one’s high school athletic career, it’s all about the game you play. As Ryder Mariani, senior at TLHS and varsity football player, put it, “a win against SR means way more than a win against a different school, but win or lose, it was some of my favorite high school memories and games to play.”
For the Class of 2022, this was their last year participating in school events during their high school careers, and as Kosinski said, “we’re taking initiative because it’s our last chance.” There is no doubt that the tradition of the Bell Game will last for as long as the two schools remain, but hopefully, in the years post-pandemic, students and alumni alike will ramp up the spirit at both schools. As the school year comes to an end, and with both schools having their graduation on the same day, the Class of 2022 has begun to sign off and leaves the underclassmen to make the rivalry their own.