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104th East-West meeting

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You don't need to remind West coach Don Holtry that it is East-West week — and more important — game day.

When you played at West in the early '60s, had three sons follow in your footsteps, and witnessed it all as a 14-year coach for West, the longest-running rivalry in state history doesn't need any explaining.

"I don't think I've ever taken them lightly," said Holtry. "There's just something between the two schools."

Whether it's football, wrestling, baseball or golf, whenever the directional schools hook up, serious bragging rights are on the line. If the schools could find a way to make baking a sport, that would also evolve into a highly competitive event between the two schools.

Friday's 7 p.m. kickoff at East will be the 104th meeting between the two schools. East leads the all-time series, 52-44-7, including a blowout 44-7 win last year.

Aside from bragging rights, last year's game didn't mean much. It was the second-to-last game of the season, and West had one victory compared to winless East. This year though, both teams are 2-1, and Friday night is each team's first Region 5 game.

"It will get one of us off on the right foot," said Holtry.

Perhaps Holtry's greatest recollection of the rivalry was in 1990, the year his team didn't get off on the right foot.

East entered that season-opening game on a 29-game losing streak, dating back to the final game of the 1986 season. All they did was beat a shocked West team 42-35 in quadruple overtime.

"We should've won that game, but everything went wrong for us in those overtimes," said Holtry.

He was reminded of that loss years later when he'd go watch his daughter's volleyball games at East High. There was a plaque just outside the gym commemorating that victory, and Holtry got a pit in his stomach every time he saw it.

In contrast, East's Aaron Whitehead is in his first season as the head coach for the Leopards, but the rivalry is equally big in his eyes.

"It's an honor to be part of the state's longest tradition," said Whitehead. "To the kids it's a pretty big deal."

He's trying to make that tradition an even bigger deal to the players. Whitehead continually reminds his players that thousands of East High graduates, dating as far back as the World War I era, pick up Saturday's newspaper to see if East won or lost.

To further excite his team regarding tradition, he had Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin come speak to East before the season-opening Northridge game. Elder Wirthlin, a member of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was also the starting quarterback for the Leopards in 1930.

Last week, prior to East's game at Granger, Whitehead arranged for Mike Williams to speak with the team. He was merely the quarterback of the 1953 team that won the state championship.

"We're trying to establish some traditions that can add to the great traditions we have," said Whitehead. "I think it's important that they know that a lot of people have gone to East."

Many of those alums have passed away, but the joke around the school is they still take an interest in East football as "the ghosts of East High."

OTHER BIG GAMES: Lehi travels to American Fork for the 61st meeting between the schools since 1931. . . . Despite its only being the 26th meeting, few games are ever bigger in any sports than Alta-Brighton. When the Hawks visit Bengal Country this Friday, they'll try and build off of last year's thrilling 25-23 overtime thriller. Brighton leads the all-time series 16-9. . . . Tooele and Judge are meeting for the 46th time, Springville and Orem for the 40th and Provo and Pleasant Grove for the 39th.

MILESTONES: Both Morgan and North Summit are aiming for the school's 350th victory, while Bear River has its sights set on win No. 300. . . . Sky View's Perry Christensen is coaching his 250th game.

ATTENTION COACHES: A reminder to home coaches to please call the Deseret Morning News with the information from your game as soon as possible after the final whistle. The newspaper's local number is 237-2161; long-distance is 1-800-688-2161.

E-MAIL: jedward@desnews.com