WAHPETON, N.D. (AP) — The Twin Towns' biggest game of the year is in doubt for the 2015 season and beyond.
Wahpeton, N.D., and Breckenridge, Minn., High Schools have a long-standing tradition of meeting up each season for a hard-nosed game of football. It's an annual bleacher-filler between rivals that goes back nearly 100 years to 1920. Redubbed the Harvest Bowl in 2011, the event is often the first or the second game of the season on the schedule, and with victory carries not only the Cargill trophy, but also bragging rights for 12 entire months.
"It's been around for a long, long time and our kids always look forward to it. It's really unique to the fact that it gets thousands of people to a high school game here," said Chad Fredericksen, Breckenridge football coach and athletic director. "It's a friendly rivalry, and the kids all know each other through youth football integration. It's so neat that there are so many people there on the last weekend of summer to come watch the game. It far exceeds any other game in terms of attendance and revenue. It's great for our schools and awesome for the community. We take pride in that and show up in the masses to watch it."
But now this late-August, early-September classic is in jeopardy. The Minnesota State High School League is in a process of shuffling its member teams around into larger districts, and for the Cowboys, who only play an eight-game regular-season schedule, it could come at the cost of playing the Huskies, according to the Daily News (http://bit.ly/1nm42A4).
Breckenridge has until the end of April to submit its enrollment numbers to the Minnesota State High School League, which will use that information to blend schools into districts in June, allowing scheduling for the 2015-16 sports seasons. The biggest threat for Fredericksen is if Breckenridge is played into a large 16-team district, which will force its hand on spending its entire schedule playing half of its district for parity.
"The questions are immediately raised about our rivalry games outside of conference, especially with Wahpeton. We've been in constant communication with the (MSHSL) with what makes our rivalry with them so unique," Fredericksen said. "With it becoming the Harvest Bowl, it's become even more of a community event, like a carnival, with everyone getting involved."
Not only is the Wahpeton game in danger, but so are other rivalries with teams from the Heart O' Lakes Conference.
"That's another scary situation, too. They could move us south and we would miss out on games with rivals like Hawley and Barnesville. The fear of the unknown is out there," Fredericksen said. "We just got the conference back together and now all of a sudden they're talking about ripping it apart."
Of course, nothing is known for certain at this point, and the fall 2014 game is a definite. Fredericksen said the school has made it clear to the board at the Minnesota State High School League how special the border battle is.
"It all could be a lot of talk for nothing. They might just leave us in this pocket of teams we play. Or, our fear is being moved south. It's kind of the unknown," he said. "I think most of those people are going to be considerate of us keeping that game."
Information from: Wahpeton Daily News, http://www.wahpetondailynews.com