Rhinelander and Antigo renew Bell Game rivalrySubmitted: 10/09/2015

Play Video
RHINELANDER/ANTIGO - One of the biggest football rivalries in Wisconsin will be renewed Friday.

Rhinelander will host Antigo in the 81st playing of the historic Bell Game.

"The Bell Game was always more than a rivalry," says former Rhinelander Athletic Director and Antigo player Charlie LaHam.

You'd be hard pressed to find a coach or player in northern Wisconsin who doesn't know about the storied Bell Game rivalry.

Gene Shepard, the man behind the Hodag legend, donated a bell from his ship as a traveling trophy for the winner of the rivalry.

The Hodags and the Red Robins have been playing for that bell since they were original members of the Wisconsin Valley Conference in 1935.

"I was watching my niece, who plays volleyball for Antigo, and while we were in Rhinelander's gym, Antigo's student section started cheering at us, during the midst of a volleyball game, 'We got the bell. We got the bell,'" says current Rhinelander coach and former Antigo player Gary Zarda. "So that brought it home to me how important this game is."

Since the start, Antigo leads the 80 year history of the game with a 51-27-2 record.

That includes a significant streak in the 1960's and 70's when Antigo won 12 straight. 

"It was a terrible, terrible feeling to think that Rhinelander would ring that bell on our field, and it felt the same when I was up here coaching," says LaHam.

Back then, players took losses a lot harder.

"I remember having potatoes thrown at bus as we left town," says LaHam. "I don't know what our fan base did to here. And I know that there were people who tried to steal the bell from the schools. You know, little pranks. One year, not all that long ago, but while my nephew was playing, they came up here and fertilized our football field and burned part of it."

For all the bad blood, it might not be what's different about the schools that fuels the fire.

"I think high school players are high school players, and that's one of the things, I think, makes the rivalry special," says Zarda. "We're two very similar towns, two very similar student bodies, and I think that that contributes to the rivalry rather than there having to be some sort of difference."

That's why, 80 years later, the candle still holds a flame.

"This is a game that means a ton to them," says Zarda. "It's a game that they literally feel in their bones, and we hope that they get the pay off after all of that hard work."

It's also why you'll see the Red Robins and Hodags trying to ring the bell for years to come.

"I think, just the fact that this has gone on for so long, that people are pretty proud of the rivalry, actually, on both sides," says LaHam.

Rhinelander will try to end their eight year Bell drought Friday at Mike Webster Stadium. 

Story By: Dan Marz

Text Size: + Increase | Decrease -
 Print Story Print Story | Email Story Email Story

Sponsored in part by HodagSports.com


MEDFORD - Medford runs past Rhinelander 36-7 Friday night in Medford.

+ Read More

MARATHON - Marathon defeats Edgar 16-8 Friday night in Edgar.

Marathon's Ben Martin had a pick six in the 2nd half to make the score 16-8.

+ Read More

SCHOFIELD - DC Everest hosted the Kaukauna Galloping Ghosts.

Evergreens on the march near the goal line early in the first.

The handoff goes to Sam Stroik, but Kaukauna gets a helmet on the ball.

Ghosts recover, but Kaukauna can't get much going on the ensuing possession.

DC Everest gets the ball back.

The pitch goes left to Stephen Paoli.

He makes a nice cut back and he's in for the score.

7-0 Everest.

On the ensuing Ghost possession, they live up to their name and gallop down the field.

Another handoff, and a nice stretch gets it over the goal line.

A close game, but DC Everest hangs on to win a shootout 54-48.

+ Read More

WAUSAU - It's not often you see a Wausau team on the visiting sidelines at Thom Field, but when East plays West for the Wausau log, that's exactly what happens.

Lots of defense in the first half.

Just 7-0 West with five minutes until the half.

East marching for the tie.

It's a read option in the red zone, and the quarterback coughs it up.

Warriors recover with just minutes left.

They march right down the field, thanks to plays like this: Chandler Fochs drops to pass.

He scrambles to his left, then cuts all the way back to the right side of the field.

It's a 13 yard pickup, but Fochs ran at least double that to pick up the first down.

Warriors punch it in on the toss to Mitch Michalske here.

West wins the log 20-7.

+ Read More

MERCER - Leaders in Mercer hope the new name on their volleyball court represents strength and discipline.

The school dedicated its court in former coach John Pierpont's honor Thursday.

+ Read More

GREEN BAY - The Kansas City Chiefs only gained three yards on offense in the first quarter Monday night.

The Chiefs first three drives were three-and-outs.

That strong start by the Packers defense led to a fast start by the Packers as a team.

The Packers defense forced six three-and-outs Monday night and an interception. The Packers also sacked Alex Smith seven times.

+ Read More

MERRILL - Antigo (5-1, 3-0) shuts down Merrill on Saturday (4-2, 3-1) 14-0.

Now Antigo has the outright lead in the Great Northern Conference.

+ Read More
Medford outlasts Lakeland 14-8Submitted: 09/25/2015

Play Video

LAKELAND - Medford (3-3, 3-1) defeats Lakeland (3-3, 1-2) 14-8 Friday in Lakeland.

+ Read More
Edgar runs over Tomahawk 29-0Submitted: 09/25/2015

Play Video

TOMAHAWK - Edgar 6-0 (5-0) defeats Tomahawk (3-3, 2-3) 29-0.

+ Read More

WAUSAU - Wausau West had a big contest Friday at home.

Number one ranked Kimberly visited from the Fox Valley area, but it was just 10-7 Papermakers early in the second quarter.

Lots of defense early.

Sully Phillips showing shutdown ability for the Warriors.

Ball comes to his side, but he says get that out of my kitchen on third down.

Kimberly gets the ball right back, and they showed why they're ranked number one.

A nice pump fake, and the gorgeous catch over the terrific coverage.

Papermakers took to the ground exclusively after that.

Number 22 gaining a ton of yards and the touchdown.

Kimberly took control from there.

They win 34-7.

+ Read More
+ More Local Sports