Long-Lived Football Rivalry Takes Odd Turn


It’s one of the most bizarre incidents to ever rock small-town Arizona football.

Before explaining the episode, readers must understand the heated rivalry that has gone on for generations in the small towns of Eagar-Springerville and St. Johns — both located just miles apart in eastern Arizona.

The sports rivalries between Round Valley High in Eagar and St. Johns High School is intense and passionate as athletes representing the two schools battling for bragging rights.

Some in the two towns say the annual football clash between the two schools in more heated than the Arizona State vs. Arizona game.

What is widely agreed upon among football purists is that the RVHS vs. St. Johns rivalry is one of the longest and most heated in Arizona football history.

For example consider this fable:

A story has long circulated in the White Mountains that the wife of a former RVHS Elk football star went shopping to buy their son new school clothes. Not being a native of the area, she did not know the predominate color of St. Johns uniforms, in every sport, is red.

When she arrived home from the shopping trip and showed the son’s new clothes to her husband, he was horror-struck seeing she had chosen some shirts that were red in color.

The father, who obviously harbors an utter disdain for red that has its roots in his playing days at RVHS, immediately scolded his wife to return the clothes to the store saying no son of his is going to ever wear red.

Wow, that father is a genuine, Grade A Elk, through and through.

Knowing the rivalry that exists in eastern Arizona, what occurred last week will probably make the St. Johns vs. RVHS rivalry even more interesting.

It involves the finest player to ever don a Redskin uniform, Marcus Bell, agreeing to become the head coach at Round Valley High.

Rendering the situation even more bizarre is that when RVHS and St. Johns meet on the gridiron next season Bell will be coaching toe -to-toe against Mike Morgan, the man who coached him during his high school career.

There are those in St. Johns who say — all the while grinding their teeth and scrunching their knuckles — that seeing Bell coach Round Valley will be akin to Frank Kush coaching Arizona.

Heaven forbid.

Looking back

For those who don’t remember Bell, he was a 6-foot, 2-inch 245-pound linebacker who could run the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds, had a 31.5-inch vertical leap and could do 21 reps on the bench press with 225 pounds.

After starring for St. Johns, he went on to become an All Pac-10 linebacker at the University of Arizona, leading he 1998 team to a 12-1 record and a No. 4 national ranking.

He was drafted in the fourth round by the Seattle Seahawks and played there for three seasons. He also played one season for the Houston Texans.

Most remarkable about his career is that at St. Johns, Bell never lost a game as the Redskins went 44-0 and won three state champions.

Bell also starred on the wrestling mat, winning a state title his senior year.

Youth football sign up

Payson Youth Football Association player registrations will be held 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, July 9 and Saturday, July 23 at Chapman Auto Center.

The registration fee has increased this year from $100 to $125 because, “we need to replace some safety equipment this year,” said President Daniel Way.

For more information, call Way at (928) 978-6560.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.