Printed on: September 28, 2013

Emotion overload

I.F., Skyline football rivalry still crazy after nearly 50 years

By KIRSTEN JOHNSON
kjohnson@postregister.com

It's game day, hours before kickoff at the Emotion Bowl and the hallways of Idaho Falls and Skyline high schools are buzzing.

"Everyone's getting pumped, everyone's getting emotional," said 17-year-old Garret Caudle, a senior football player at Skyline High School. "It's called the Emotion Bowl because it's emotional -- as students, there's a lot that separates us, but this is the one thing we all come together for."

It's a rivalry that spans nearly 50 years. This year, the Emotion Bowl was named one of the nation's top 80 high school football rivalries by the Great American Rivalry Series, which ranks rivalry high school games around the country each year.

Students at each school spend the week leading up to the game, known as Emotion Week, preparing with a series of activities.

At Idaho Falls High School, students donned Hawaiian attire one day, nerd outfits another and capped off the week with a pep rally.

At Skyline High School, activities included two dress-up days featuring camouflage-themed and "fashion disaster" attire followed by the "Tiger Stomp," a symbolic burning of a pinata version of their rival's mascot.

"My favorite part is how the whole school bonds together," said Amanda Garrity, 17, a senior at Idaho Falls High School. "It doesn't matter if you don't have any friends because everyone is just united against one cause. It feels like you have a connection to every other student."

Eighteen-year-old Jace Packer from Idaho Falls High School warns, however, that wearing the wrong colors during Emotion Week can be an easy way to make enemies.

"If you forget and accidentally wear blue, people will understand if you go home and change," he said.

The rivalry began in 1966 with the opening of Skyline High School to accommodate the city's growing population. Until then, Idaho Falls High School was the only high school in town.

"When they split and created two high schools, suddenly there were a lot of friends and teammates that got divided," said Kerry Martin, athletic director for Idaho Falls School District 91. "There were friendships that were separated but then continued at the different schools."

Over the years, the rivalry intensified -- leading to this year's designation as a Great American Rivalry Series. Rivalry Series spokesman Todd Jones said to become one of the nation's Top 80 rivalries, a number of factors come into play. Those factors include competitiveness and rivalry history, as well as a community's level of involvement in the game.

"Many of these schools have been playing each other for decades," Jones said. "It just gets built up over the years. The rivalries are so old, they've just become ingrained in the community."

Caudle can recall getting pumped up for the Emotion Bowl as long as he can remember.

"When you're a little kid, it's all about supporting your future high school," he said. "So from such a young age, it's all you're thinking about."

Per unofficial tradition, fans from both schools stash spray paint in the bleachers each year. The minute the game ends, students from the winning team rush the field -- spray paint in hand -- and wildly color the goal posts of Ravsten Stadium with their school's colors.

Sixteen-year-old Tanis Butler, a Skyline High School junior, said the adrenaline surges during the last few minutes of the game.

"The fans go way crazy," he said. "Everyone is standing on the fence. It gets pretty intense, especially when the game is close."

For the players on the field, the feeling can be surreal, Caudle said.

At the Emotion Bowl, Caudle said he's playing not so much for the football but for tradition.

"It's bigger than I can explain," he said. "We're not just playing for ourselves; we're playing for our entire school. We're representing past students, future students, bringing it all together, and keeping that tradition alive."