Another battle to begin with

GLENDALE — Once isn't enough for Hoover and Glendale high.

Since 1930, the Nitros and Tornadoes football programs have ended their regular seasons with the annual "Battle for the Victory Bell."

In 2011, they'll try something new.

Glendale and Hoover will play one another in a nonleague game to start the season in addition to ending the year with their annual Pacific League showdown.

Hoover High Coach Chris Long said he thought of the idea of playing a Week One game against Glendale when he realized he needed an opponent to begin the year. Hoover played Sierra Vista the past two years in the first game of the season.

Long pitched the idea to Glendale Coach Alan Eberhart, whose team also needed a Week One game after its two-year contract with Cathedral ended.

After a week of discussions, both schools finalized the deal Friday.

Glendale will be the "road" team in Week One and will be "home" team in Week 10, as the game takes place as usual at Glendale High's Moyse Field, which serves as both teams' home field.

"We talked about it," said Eberhart, whose team defeated the Tornadoes, 54-19, in the 83rd meeting between the cross-town rivals, bringing the Victory Bell back to Glendale a year after losing to Hoover. "We both needed a Game One. We both would like to play somebody we could beat. I think it creates a little excitement. We see how many people come to the last game and how few people come to any other game. Why not try it?"

Over the previous five seasons, the two schools have combined to go 13-86-1, with no playoff appearances and five of those victories coming against each other.

Long said the opening game will promote excitement for both schools, like it always does for the last game.

"It's a win-win situation for everybody," he said. "Everybody knows how big of a game it is for both schools, our community and our alumni. Plus we will have a big crowd at the start of the year. It's a big game for everyone."

He also hopes that more students will consider playing for Hoover because of the new schedule.

"Both schools are struggling for numbers," Long said. "This is another way to motivate more kids to come out for the summer time."

The winner of the first game will not claim the Victory Bell. The Victory Bell will be awarded to the winner of the second game — which acts as both schools' homecoming game.

Long and Eberhart realize there might be critics to the concept of Hoover and Glendale playing twice a year. But they also know that the game will generate revenue for both schools.

"Nobody comes to our games," Eberhart said. "A couple of years ago we played at Cathedral and there was nobody there. The reason we're playing Hoover is to get more people in the stands in Game One.

"People are going to criticize it. I say, 'come out and see Game One. Why wait until Game 10?'"

Added Long: "I think our school will be excited about the first game of the year as opposed to just the last game of the year. The last game of the season is the game that the student body cares about. More people will come because it's the first game of the year. It's summer time so it's still hot and the weather is nice. More people will get involved. Our crowd will be better. It should be a sold-out game."

Long went through the proper channels with officials at the CIF Southern Section to see if there were any rules prohibiting league opponents from playing a nonleague game.

CIF Director of Communications Thom Simmons confirmed there's no rules at all that would stand in front of the teams playing each other twice.

"Many schools play schools from their own league more than once," Simmons said. "It is not unusual. They have every right and ability to do so. There's no rule to preclude them from doing so."

Eberhart hopes a Week One game will help the Nitros garner a support system. He was blunt when he said he doesn't have a strong support system at Glendale.

"No parents again," Eberhart said. "I don't have a booster club. I have two ladies who help. You have to win to turn the program around. To try to win, I need a support system. There is not one at Glendale High."

He's hoping to change the culture of Glendale athletics.

"There is so much contentment with being average, it's shocking," Eberhart said. "They are so used to what it is. There is no pride, tradition and honor. I have to create that somehow. I'm 54 years old. I don't like getting my butt kicked. I want to coach some big-time games and play for championships."

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