An enduring rivalry with roots in community
Thousands of eyes were on two winless teams on Nov. 10 at Harlandale Memorial Stadium for the 54th Frontier Bowl. Though neither team made the playoffs, a win in the Frontier Bowl would validate the season for the victors.
More than just a football game, the South Side rivalry between Harlandale and McCollum represents generations of competition and good-spirited boasting.
“Records don’t even matter. It’s not just about the team, it’s about the community, the South Side, Harlandale District,” said Robert Martinez, Harlandale class of ‘97. “Whenever you see old folks out here cheering you on when they don’t even have kids on the field, it means something.”
Leading up to the anticipated game, both schools participate in Spirit Week that includes class colors, decades day, wacky Wednesday, jinx day, evening pep-rallies and tailgating.
Established by generations before them, students receive an outpouring of support from family and friends.
Stadiums filled for night pep rallies
Despite the blistering cold weather earlier this month, both schools held their pep rallies Nov. 9 on their home football fields.
The stands at Harlandale consisted of students and alumni sporting maroon and gold. Local radio station 98.5 The Beat moderated the pep-rally. Down the road, a sea of green and gold filled McCollum’s stands so much that people had to stand on the track and parts of the field.
“No matter how far you go after you leave, the South Side never leaves you,” said McCollum principal Jacob P. Garcia. “Whether you went to Harlandale or McCollum, they all come and want to give back and remember where they started.”
Garcia and his five siblings grew up in the Harlandale District where they all graduated from McCollum. He’s worked in the district for 23 years.
Others such as Albert Torres, Harlandale’s first year head football coach, have viewed the Frontier Bowl from afar. Torres is a 1992 Edison graduate and coached there for 10 years.
“When I first got [to] Harlandale, I was told that they rent out these tailgating spots and I was like ‘No,’” Torres said. “They told me ‘Yeah coach, they are going to rent them out and be there at eight in the morning.’ This is pretty cool.”
“This is a very unique situation here in San Antonio, and all of the people here in the South Side understand what this game means,” Torres said.
Devoted fans arrive early to tailgate
Parents from both sides arrived at Harlandale Memorial Stadium before students arrived to school. Lifted trucks were parked on the side and dozens of colossal BBQ pits scattered the designated areas. Tejano music played as alumni shared laughs and grilled burgers, sausages and brisket.
Dennis Ortiz, McCollum class of ‘82, was in charge of the hamburger grill that fed members of the McCollum band. Ortiz has two sons who attend McCollum and play on the baseball team; he had been grilling outside the stadium since 2 p.m.
“This rivalry means a lot. Since I graduated from [McCollum] it has always been a good game,” Ortiz said. “That’s why we are out here, for the rivalry.”
Chelsea Aparicio, Harlandale class of 2002, was positioned in front of her Harlandale Band booster club tent. She arrived at 7 a.m. and devoted the entire tailgate to feed the Harlandale band members. Her father attended McCollum and her mother, Harlandale.
“The words ‘McCollum’ are not to be spoken in our household,” Aparicio said laughing. “We knew our daughter was going to bleed maroon and gold since she was born.”
Harlandale emerges victorious
High school students, senior citizens, and many other alumni filled the bleachers at Harlandale Memorial Stadium that Friday evening.
McCollum junior John Trevino shared the individual sacrifice he had to make while playing the game. He broke his wrist during the sixth game of the season but chose to play through the pain.
“I continued to play because I knew my team needed me and I was willing to sacrifice my own health for the team,” Trevino said.
Going into the fourth quarter neither team had an edge, Harlandale led McCollum 17-14.
The Cowboys took the lead with six minutes left in play, 21-17. McCollum’s side of the stadium roared in victory.
In the final seconds of play, senior Edward Beltran, caught his first touchdown of the season. The reception gave Harlandale the win 24-21, their first of the season and bragging rights until next year. He immediately fell to the ground as his teammates leaped and embraced him on the field.
“Everything just blacked out for me in the end zone when I caught that touchdown,” Beltran said. “It felt great to catch my first touchdown of the season in my senior year.”
The Frontier Bowl pinnacles under the bright stadium lights, but the events leading up to the game are just as important to the community, students and alumni. It’s more than just a game, but coming out on the winning side never hurts.
“It feels awesome, a lot of emotions going on right now we faced a lot of adversity,” Torres said drenched in cold water. “What we are known for is lean some and its never giving up and it was true to form the way we finished.”