Schools and communities buzz over the Brawl

Emotion and pressure play a big role in Central PA’s top football rivalry


Terry McCaulley

Nothing quite matches the excitement or the pressure of the Backyard Brawl, one of the state’s best football rivalries.

Christina Kowalski, Staff Writer

The Backyard Brawl is the first game of every football season, and it keeps the hallways at Bellwood-Antis buzzing with excitement.  In the week leading up to the big game posters start to decorate the halls, Spirit Day is set up, and people make shirts for game night.

Jim Roseberry watches the 2014 Brawl coin flip while holding the Backyard Brawl trophy.
Terry McCaulley
Jim Roseberry watches the 2014 Brawl coin flip while holding the Backyard Brawl trophy.

In the Backyard Brawl the Blue Devils average one win for every two Golden Eagle wins, but that doesn’t stop the entire town from coming out to support the Blue Devils.

“There is a definite buzz about the building.  Players, students, and fans are all looking forward to participating in the community event,” said High School Principal Mr. Schreier.

The two longtime rivals will face each other Friday at 7 p.m. at Memorial Field in Bellwood.

Players, both past and present, all look forward to the game.  It doesn’t matter what school you’re from, your entire week is spent anticipating the game.

Bellwood-Antis junior high football coach Charles Burch, who played in three Brawls from 1986-88, said, “It is a game that stays with you the rest of your life and one you will reminisce about this time of year win or lose.  It is two schools with great traditions that sit side-by-side on the map and the players know a lot about each other and have competed against each other since they were little kids.

When asked about the week leading up to the game, senior football player Jake McCaulley said, “Most of the football players are nervous and excited about the game. Emotions are high as the game approaches.”

It is a game that stays with you the rest of your life and one you will reminisce about this time of year win or lose.

— Coach Charlie Burch

Players from the two schools, which are only ten minutes apart, often have family members in both schools.  Coach Jason Wilson, who also played football at Tyrone, said, “It’s a game that your parents may have played in, it’s cousins versus cousins, it’s a friends versus friends.  Each community has great support for their football programs and each program has a rich tradition.”

For some the game isn’t just between friends; it’s a family affair.  Looking back on previous Backyard Brawls there are a few father son duos that have played for opposite schools.  Classmates Steve Walker and Mike Desch both played for Bellwood in the 1970s and 80s, but their sons Shane Walker and Eric Desch both played for Tyrone.

Coach Burch, whose son Jake will be starting his third Brawl at quarterback, said, “I got to start in two Backyard Brawls and I am proud to say that we won both of those games.  As a parent and a coach, I am proud of Jake as a three-year starter and his efforts over the last two seasons.”

The week leading up to the game isn’t only filled with excitement. Every player, no matter what team they’re on, expects to win.

“The hype and intensity of the game puts a lot of pressure on the team,” said Jack Showalter a sophomore football player at B-A.

And the game isn’t just between the two high schools; it’s between the two towns. The players are all representing their community, with the winning town having bragging rights, and the traveling Backyard Brawl Trophy, for the entire year.

As each school year starts to wind down the Backyard Brawl starts to become a topic again.  Coach Wilson said, “It is what everyone looks forward to as soon as the school year ends.”