Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014 | 2 a.m.
This is arguably the state’s most significant high school football rivalry.
Henderson Bowl, the annual game between Basic and Green Valley highs, is one of those events that players from both teams remember the rest of their lives. It’s an old-fashioned grudge match with a multidecade history and the most sought-after trophy in Nevada high school sports.
Basic was Henderson’s lone high school before Green Valley opened in 1991 to create a natural rivalry. It quickly became lopsided in Green Valley’s favor — the Gators won six straight in the mid-to-late 1990s. Basic slowly transformed its program and the teams became evenly matched, making Henderson Bowl one of those games circled on the calendars of community members.
The “Bone Game” between Las Vegas and Rancho has more history, but Las Vegas hasn’t lost in nearly two decades and the game often ends by the mercy rule of a running clock. Bishop Gorman-Palo Verde, Arbor View-Centennial and Canyon Springs-Las Vegas have blossomed in the past decade to can’t-miss games.
But nothing tops Henderson’s bowl history and tradition — and the packed crowds from both communities. The players understand the importance of winning the game, especially during their senior year. It’s the stuff memories are made of.
High school football isn’t as wildly followed in Southern Nevada as Texas, Florida, Ohio or in small towns across the nation. But, each year, the crowds continue to grow. You can’t beat the price of $7 for adults and $5 for students.
Here are some more games worth attending:
Gorman’s national games always attract a crowd
If you don’t arrive an hour early to Bishop Gorman’s Fertitta Field for one of the Gaels' games against a respected out-of-state opponent, you’ll be forced to walk a few blocks to the stadium. The parking lot and stands fill up fast for marquee games. The standing-room-only capacity is 5,000 fans. Some don’t get a spot in the stadium, peeking through the fence by the north end zone to watch. Or they catch the action at home, as these games are often televised. Gorman has about a dozen players with Division I scholarship offers. The teams it plays also are loaded with players who will be playing on Saturdays. It’s a pretty fun way to spend a Friday night.
Gorman at 7 p.m. Sept. 26 hosts St. John Bosco of California on ESPNU. Both teams should be ranked in the top-10 nationally. It’s one of four home games against respected out-of-state opponents. Here’s the rest of the schedule.
Nothing better than Palo Verde, Gorman
The battle of Summerlin is a game fans wait all season for. It’s typically a sellout. The Bishop Gorman-Palo Verde state semifinal playoff game in 2010 set a Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association paid attendance record with 4,102 fans. This is the first year the teams are in the same league, meaning we are guaranteed the most-anticipated game of the season. Previously, because both teams are state powers, we’ve gotten the game in the playoffs. Palo Verde in 2008 was the last team to beat five-time defending state champion Gorman, taking the rivalry to a new level. If you are going to attend one game this season, make this the one. It’s the last regular season game for both and played on a Thursday before a three-day weekend. It will be a wild atmosphere.
7 p.m. Oct. 30 at Palo Verde
No love lost between Centennial, Palo Verde
No matter the sport, Palo Verde-Centennial games are always well attended. The old league rivals have a history of intense games and dislike for each other. It’s the season opener for both, and the perfect way to start the season. Both teams are well-coached and have talented players on both sides of the ball. Don’t be surprised if this turns into a back-and-forth affair.
7 p.m. Aug. 29 at Centennial
Is this the state’s top rivalry?
There’s never an empty seat in the stands for this small-school rivalry. Mesquite’s Virgin Valley High and Overton’s Moapa Valley, which are located about 40 minutes apart on the I-15, have played each other since the 1950s in the “Hammer Game.” The winning school gets possession of the hammer trophy for the year. The two communities are competitive in everything they do against each another. It’s one of those games where the outcome can make or break a season. This is one game worth the 90-minute drive to witness. The game-day pageantry and energy in the stadium is unmatched.
7 p.m. Oct. 10 at Moapa Valley
Battle for Boulder Highway
This rivalry didn’t take long to become one of the state’s best. When Foothill High opened near downtown Henderson in 1999, it took most of its students from Henderson’s oldest school, Basic High. The schools are less than 2 miles apart, located on opposite sides of Boulder Highway. Most of the athletes grew up playing with each other in youth football or attended the same middle school. Both teams are typically jockeying for seeding in the playoffs, adding another level of importance to the backyard brawl.
7 p.m. Oct. 17 at Basic
For the Northwest League title
The last time Arbor View and Centennial played, the line to get into the stadium was so long that some fans didn’t get a ticket until midway through the second quarter. The schools both have active student-cheering sections, meaning it will be loud from start to finish. They play in the last week of the regular season in what will more than likely determine the Northwest League champion and No. 1 seed for the playoffs. It’s everything you want in an end-of-the-season game — two quality programs with loyal fan bases, a championship at stake and a wild atmosphere in the bleachers.
7 p.m. Oct. 30 at Centennial
Thrilling games, high intensity
The rivalry between Green Valley and Coronado was already heated in every sport entering the 2012 high school football season. Two games took things to another level. In a regular season game, Green Valley rallied from a three-touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter for a dramatic victory. Then, two months later in the playoffs, Coronado upset top-seeded Green Valley to reach the state semifinals. Coronado won on Green Valley’s field, then its students stormed that field to celebrate, setting the stage for future meetings to be intense. Both teams return players who figured prominently in 2012. Each has something to prove.
7 p.m. Oct. 10 at Green Valley
Canyon Springs, Las Vegas worth a watch
Unlike other games on this list, the stands won’t be full on this Friday night. That has nothing to do with the quality of play or the importance of the rivalry, but rather the struggling economics of the neighborhood in North Las Vegas where Canyon Springs is located. You can expect both teams to have Division I recruits in prominent positions, and a closely contested game not decided until the fourth quarter.
7 p.m. Oct. 10 at Canyon Springs
Rivalry game dates back to 1970s
While the programs at Chaparral and Eldorado have both declined in the past decade, the “Cleat Game” still has significant meaning in the community. Alumni from both schools attend the annual game, taking a trip down memory lane from their high school days. Former Los Angeles Rams great Merlin Olsen donated one of his cleats in 1970s for the rivalry. It is bronzed and sits on a 2-foot base. And, one Friday night each fall, players fight from start to finish for the right to store the cleat at their school for the year. Las Vegas is often knocked for having little tradition. This is an exception. This game still matters.
7 p.m. Aug. 29 at Chaparral