Delta-Montrose football rivalry resumes after 5-year hiatus

On Friday, 100-plus years of history continues.

The towns of Montrose and Delta are too close for there not to be some territorial marking, if you will. It’s only a 20-minute drive between the two.

Granted, many associated with the schools’ programs say this rivalry isn’t what it was in the 1960s, ‘70s or ‘80s. There have been gaps in which the teams have not played, such as throughout the 1940s, according to 1952 Delta High School graduate Ray Ayer.

“We only played Olathe,” Ayer said at a Montrose home game last week. “Nobody had money to travel on buses.”

Little has changed there. Primarily because of low travel costs, this rivalry that began more than 100 years ago is resuming at 7 p.m. Friday in Delta.

The competition was not what it used to be, and so Montrose pulled out of the matchup and began playing Glenwood Springs — another Class 4A school —  Montrose coach Todd Casebier said.

Now the neighbors on U.S. Highway 50 are going head-to-head again. The main reason? It’s a cheap matchup to produce.

That’s fine.

But there should be another reason. In an age where, for example, colleges are ripped from conferences and longtime rivalries are shattered; when historic NFL stadiums are smashed and new ones are constructed and slapped with corporate names (again, money), another reason to resume the matchup should be history.

Delta and Montrose last played in 2007, a 29-13 victory for Montrose.

Five years later, it’s good the rivalry is back. Towns with such history and proximity and relatively similar enrollments should face off. Perhaps the competition isn’t always there. But the communities are. Generations tend to remain close to home, and so such a rivalry comes with baggage that’s actually healthy. We can reminisce and talk about where we once were.

So, let’s go.

CHSAA assistant Commissioner Bert Borgmann said the matchup could have begun 115 years ago.

That’s going back before Delta reeled off unbeaten seasons from 1904 to 1908 and another in 1960. The Panthers’ six unbeaten seasons ranks second on CHSAA’s all-time, all-classifications list. Limon is first with 12.

Remember those years, Delta proud?

Montrose? Remember?

Maybe not.

But, hey, we can talk about it again. If this game isn’t for this season’s players who are far removed from the “glory years” of Panthers-Indians showdowns, it’s for the community members who once again see the green against the red and black and remember games younger folks wouldn’t know about.

“It’s good to be a part of history,” Montrose quarterback Drew Casebier said.

Yet it seems the resumed rivalry is producing more fury in Delta. The country music blared from a press box during a recent practice. A long field of green grass was interrupted by practicing men in green jerseys. Delta is a little more country than Montrose: just different enough to attract opposites. Then there’s the string of Panthers’ losses that led to a brief pause in the Montrose-Delta duals.

Expect Panther Stadium to be rocking.

“We’ve had a lot of community members here for a long time,” Delta coach Ben Johnson said. “I think we’ll have a very large crowd.”

With cost-cutting taking place in most districts across the state, the 20-minute trip is a cheap matchup.

“It means we don’t have to charter,” Todd Casebier said.

“It means we’re not going to lose,” Montrose running back Angelo Youngren said. “We’re going to go in there and we’re going to win.”

Todd Casebier wasn’t hyping the game, either: “The tradition’s a neat thing, but it’s just another game.”

Yet in Delta, Panthers quarterback Mitchell Whiteside said beating Montrose would be huge.

“We hate them,” he said.

In the end, it’s still a border battle. U.S. 50 connects one place to another like a blood vessel, and people and tales and rumors are exchanged.

“I saw a handwritten sign at a 7-Eleven,” said Elaine Wood of Montrose. “It said: ” ‘Make sure you flush the toilet — all the water flows to Delta.’ Funny thing is: In Gunnison they say that about us.”

Delta (1-0) is coming off a 41-7 win over Gunnison.

Montrose (1-1) is fresh off a 59-20 whipping of Palmer Ridge.

On Friday, a Delta win could ignite the matchup; a Montrose blowout would do little to recreate this “rivalry.”

Regardless, one century will once again connect to another.


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