One of the longest-standing football rivalries in the region will be renewed Friday when Orestimba makes the four-mile trip to Gustine to face the host Reds.
At stake will be possession of The Chief, a carved wooden statue which has been awarded to the winning team each year since 1987.....as well as community and school pride and bragging rights for the year to come.
Orestimba brings a 5-4 record into the game, while the host Reds are 2-7....although it has often been said that records are of little consequence when the two West Side rivals tee it up.
While no championships will be decided this year, Orestimba will also be playing to keep its playoff hopes alive....while the Reds would love to play the role of spoiler and snap Orestimba’s four-game rivalry winning streak in the process.
The rivalry is ingrained in the fabric of the neighboring West Side communities, dating back generations.
According to Souza, Friday’s game marks the 74th meeting of the two schools.....with Newman holding a razor-thin 36-35 edge in the series (two games have ended in ties).
“It is an honor and privilege to be part of such a phenomenal rivalry,” said Souza, an Orestimba alum who has played as well as coached in the game.
The ties to the rivalry week run deeply throughout the school staffs as well as communities.
Principals Adam Cano (Gustine) and Justin Pruett (Orestimba) played against one another in the rivalry game.
Gustine High Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Manuel Bettencourt played in the rivalry game as well.
“One year we won The Chief and one year we lost it,” said Bettencourt, who has also coached for Gustine in the big game.
The pride surrounding the rivalry remains as strong as ever, Bettencourt reflected.
“As a player, you do the best you can and represent the name on that jersey, as well as all the people who have played in that game before you,” he commented.
Playing in the rivalry game, Souza agreed “is huge.”
Many players, noted Gustine head coach Ronnie LaBry, grew up attending the rivalry game and hearing stories surrounding the series.
“These kids have been playing each other since elementary school, and their parents probably played one another. It just goes way back,” he said of the rivalry.
While the rivalry is intense, officials from both schools strive to make sure it remains healthy and respectful.
The two staffs collaborate on the logistics, Pruett noted, and emphasize that “this is an opportunity to promote your school, not to put the other school down.”
As the 5:30 p.m. frosh-soph kickoff approaches Friday, The Chief will be delivered by the Newman Fire Department to the Gustine High stadium, where the stately wooden statue will stand at a neutral location overlooking the action on the field.
“On Friday afternoon at 3 o’clock, it’s nobody’s Chief,” Pruett reflected. “(Possession) will be determined by who wins the game that night. It will be up to either team to earn it.”