San Jacinto keeps the historic bell for the 5th straight year
■ By Corey Evan / Reporter
It was a cloudy, blustery Friday night in the San Jacinto Valley. But on both sides of San Jacinto High School Tiger Stadium, spirits were as sunny as a summer day.
On the north side of the grandstands, the visiting Hemet High fans were arrayed in red and gold. At the south end, fans rocked their orange and black. The 2018 Battle for the Bell was about to commence.
Famed victory bell
The famed victory bell, a former signaling instrument on the Santa Fe railroad first awarded to Hemet in the first meet in 1929, sounded as good as it possibly did in its Santa Fe days.
With the Tigers having held onto it for the past four years, their fans were confident that the Bulldogs couldn’t possibly reclaim it. This would also be the 50th time the two schools would meet to play for the brass noisemaker, interrupted twice because of league boundary reassignments, but in active play since 2010.
San Jacinto won the coin toss, deferring to the second half. The ball went both ways on the field throughout the first quarter. Caleb Hervey suffered a bruising on the field halfway through. At 25.9 seconds to zero, Dawson Powers caught the pass from Nick Thornburg to bring in the evening’s first touchdown. Powers also kicked in the extra point for Hemet.
The Tigers clawed their way back in the second quarter, culminating in Hervey’s recovery from his bruise to bring in the Tigers’ first TD. With the extra point, they were equal. Both teams made errors, Hemet flubbing a field goal and San Jacinto fumbling the ball less than a minute before halftime, which would see the game at halftime tied 7-all.
During halftime, San Jacinto Unified School District Superintendent Diane Perez presented a special award to the Soboba Foundation for its many contributions to what SJUSD call “The San Jacinto difference.” It was their very own Tiger helmet, to display proudly as a member of the SJUSD extended family. This was followed by the Tiger band and cheerleaders, both squads eager to keep fans on both sides of the stands cheering. All the while, the Bulldog cheerleaders joined the Tiger cheerleaders on the home side of the field, keeping a sense of community alive and well on both sides of the cities’ limits.
As quarter three commenced, it was clear that the Tigers wouldn’t go down without a fight; Caleb Hervey brought in an 89-yard TD in just 20 seconds time. Julio Uriguay kicked in an extra point to double up on Hemet. In his effort to keep the Bulldogs down, Hervey suffered a bad cramp at 6:08, which stalled game play. Once he recovered, the Tigers pushed toward a third TD, but fouled up short of the end zone. This allowed the Bulldogs to push back and hold off the Tigers going into the final quarter:
During quarter four, the Tiger cheerleaders gave a special cheer to SJHS alumni of the class of 1968. But a Tiger interception opened up the window for the Tigers, with Juan Denny jumping through and adding to the Tigers’ lead. The extra point pushed the Tigers to a score of 21. The heavens opened at the six minute mark, sprinkling some on the field with rain. This may have made the grass wet, but fans’ spirits were not dampened. This did, however, lead Bulldog Frankie Castillo to slip up at the 3:56 mark. In the end, the Tigers retained the bell for the fifth consecutive year with a 21-7 score.
Hemet Coach Jason Thornburg says he is honored to be a part of this historic game, win or lose. “Very proud of our kids. They played hard with great effort. Just came up short tonight. SJ has some very talented kids that made big plays at crucial times. I love the rivalry and tradition between the two schools. It makes for a great Friday night. Congratulations to SJ.”
San Jacinto Coach Aric Galliano declined to comment on the game.
Out of the past nine battles for the bell, the Tigers have now won eight times, bringing their total victories in this historic series to 19. But having previously been the dominant force in this series, taking the bell 31 times previously, the Bulldogs go away today knowing that these setbacks may one day pay off if and when the time comes for Hemet to reclaim the bell once again.
In Mountain Pass league play, San Jacinto is now 4-0 and undefeated this season 8-0. Hemet is 4-4 and 1-2 as of press time.
Elsewhere in football
• The Tahquitz Titans visited the Beaumont Cougars on their turf, being beaten 48-nil by said blue cats to fall to 1-2 and 6-2.
• The West Valley Mustangs lost against Citrus Hill on their turf, but it wasn’t a shutout: 48-6. With a record of 0-3 and 1-7 as of press time.
• The MSJC Eagles had another close game at home against Victor Valley, but were victorious 35-32 to remain undefeated 6-0 as of press time.