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127th meeting between Reedsburg and Baraboo among state's oldest football rivalries

09/17/2014, 6:00am CDT
By Jeff Seering, Special Contribution to WSN

Do you have info on a long-running football rivalry? Please share the information with us as we put together a list of the most played and/or longest-running rivalries. Email Travis Wilson at travis@wissports.net with the name of the teams, the total number of games played, and the overall series record. Please include only specific, verified information.

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Special Contribution to WSN by Jeff Seering of the Reedsburg Independent

When the Reedsburg football team hosts Baraboo this Friday night, it will mark the renewal of one of closest and most fierce football rivalries in the state of Wisconsin. The two schools, located 18 miles apart in Sauk County, have met on the gridiron 126 times with Baraboo winning 61 games, Reedsburg 59 and the teams six times played to a tie. There were no overtimes the first 60 plus years of the rivalry.

A traveling trophy for the rivalry, the Old River Jug, was established in 1983, a time when both teams still had their home football fields near the banks of the Baraboo River. 

While the Old River Jug (pictured at left) is 31 years old, the Reedsburg-Baraboo football rivalry dates back to 1900, when Baraboo scored a pair of wins over Reedsburg, 25-0 and 45-0. That was in an era when players went down to the local shoemaker to have wood cleats put on their boots for football. There wasn’t much school support. In good years the school would buy a team a football that was expected to last the whole season. Helmets were optional equipment and some players didn’t wear them. Games that first decade in Reedsburg were often played in a cow pasture with lines marked off and cattle “deposits” still left on the field. In the early years Reedsburg and Baraboo often played each other twice a season.

The Reedsburg-Baraboo football rivalry is much older than any in professional football and dates back farther than most college football rivalries. It has been a series filled with heartbreak and exhilaration for both teams. 

In 1963 Baraboo surrendered just 18 points all season long. Those 18 points came in an 18-13 Reedsburg win at Baraboo in which the game ended with Baraboo being stopped on the final play at the Reedsburg one-foot line. The Beavers won the South Central Conference title that year while Baraboo was second.

Another very memorable game was back in 1970, a contest that took four days to complete. Reedsburg was coming off a winless 1968 campaign and would win just one game in 1969. Baraboo was loaded with talent with a line-up that featured two future NFL players: Terry Stieve and Mike Reinfeldt.

Beaver coach John Fippinger pulled out all the stops to get ready for Baraboo, installing some new offensive formations and a trick play on a kickoff return. The play worked as an across the filed lateral, which predated the Tennessee Titans’ “Music City Miracle” by three decades, resulted in a Reedsburg touchdown. An out-sized and out-manned Reedsburg team went into the half tied with Baraboo 14-14.

But in the third quarter a mysterious blackout occurred at Reedsburg’s Webb Field. People waited around for an hour for the electricity to come back on and officials finally decided to postpone the game until the following Monday afternoon. 

Reedsburg lost the momentum it had on Friday night and Baraboo went on to win 28-20. But Reedsburg was the only team to come within a touchdown of the South Central Conference champion Thunderbirds that season. 

The Old River Jug was first awarded after the 1983 season after another memorable game. The rivalry was especially heated at that time because two years earlier a group of Baraboo football players came over to Reedsburg and cheered for Milton when the Beavers were playing that team in their first WIAA playoff game in school history.

The 1983 game was tied at 6-6 late in the fourth quarter when the Beavers caught the Thunderbirds asleep on defense. Bryan Wright, the only 1,000 yard receiver in Reedsburg school history, for one play lined up at tight end rather than wide receiver. Baraboo didn’t adjust and quarterback John Mayer hit Wright with a long pass for a first down inside the Baraboo 10-yardline. The Baraboo defense stiffened but Mayer managed to sneak into the endzone on a fourth down run of less than a foot to give the Beavers a 13-6 victory with seconds left on the clock. Reedsburg went on to win the South Central title that year and Baraboo finished second.

It was after that season that the Baraboo school board presented the Reedsburg school board with the Jug, saying it was filled with “Baraboo River water, Baraboo River mud and a few Baraboo tears.” The trophy has gone to the winner of each year’s game ever since.

There have been some very memorable games in the rivalry since 1983. One was in 1985 when Baraboo won 3-0 in triple overtime in a game played in a cold, windy, rainy monsoon in Baraboo. The Thunderbirds did not have a first down the entire game but won on an overtime field goal. 

In 2005 the Beavers won at Baraboo 15-12. A fluky pass deflection gave a Baraboo team that seemingly was going down to defeat, a second chance inside Reedsburg 10-yardline in the final minute of play. But on a fourth and goal at the Beaver 1-yardline, Baraboo, which had an all-conference running back that year, inexplicably chose to operate out of an empty backfield. The Beaver defensive line completely stuffed the quarterback sneak and Reedsburg went home with a hard fought win.

Four years ago in 2010, Baraboo won 40-34 in overtime over the Beavers. Last year, though Reedsburg finished as undefeated Badger North Conference champions, and Baraboo finished near the bottom of the standings, one of the Beavers’ toughest wins came at Baraboo. The Beavers won 14-12 and had to stop a Thunderbird drive into Beaver territory in the final minute to preserve the victory.

The rivalry has been continuous since 1919. Reedsburg cancelled its 1918 season after one game due to the world-wide Spanish flu epidemic, which caused schools to close across the country that fall. 

 

Check out more info on some of the most played rivalries in the state on our Rivalries page. Do you have info on a long-running football rivalry? Please share the information with us as we put together a list of the most played and/or longest-running rivalries. Email Travis Wilson at travis@wissports.net with the name of the teams, the total number of games played, and the overall series record. Please include only verified information.

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