BELLAIRE - A tradition like no other. Not to mention the Ohio Valley's most storied prep football rivalry.
For an incredible 106th time, Bellaire and Martins Ferry meet on the gridiron this weekend. Nelson Field is the scene for Saturday afternoon's 12:30 encounter with the coveted SPARKY Trophy on the line.
Coach Dave Bruney's Purple Riders bring a 7-2 record into the fray with Jose Davis' Big Reds entering at 5-4.
The game's historical significance transcends generations of players, coaches, students and fans who've been part of the event since its inception in 1907.
For the venerable Bruney, it is a milestone 40th anniversary game. For the past 33 years, he's guided the Riders as head coach. Prior to that, he was a three-year assistant. Bruney was also a three-year standout player in a Riders' uniform.
''It's all about two blue-collar communities whose people possess strong work ethics and an intense love for high school football,'' Bruney said. ''The game itself is extra special because it's a one-time-a-year occurrence and provides memories that last a lifetime.''
While Ferry is guaranteed a Week 11 playoff appearance this season, Saturday's clash figures to be a final one for Bellaire's seniors who have made great late-season strides.
The Big Reds were reeling at 2-4 following an Oct. 1 home-field setback to St. Clairsville. Bellaire, though, has since run off three consecutive victories and can cap a 6-4 campaign with a victorySaturday.
''(Through the season) our kids discovered they can go out and compete with basically anyone on our schedule,'' Davis said. ''They showed great character (in a two-overtime victory against Harrison Central), then came back from two scores down (last week) to defeat Edison.''
Davis realizes Ferry presents a challenge.
''They've beaten us the last four years mostly because they've beaten us up at the line of scrimmage,'' Davis said. ''We have to go in Saturday with a mindset we can play physical football because that's what Ferry is all about.''
Perhaps, never was that more apparent than last Friday when Bruney's club literally had its back to the wall, trailing St. Clairsville late in the game.
The 33-28 comeback victory ensured Bruney's bunch will be Week-11 participants.
Ferry's crafty coach is reasonably certain his team will receive a second consecutive week's aerial assault from a Big Reds unit led by sophomore quarterback Spencer Badia and a talented group of receivers.
Badia has enjoyed a breakout sophomore campaign, completing 145 of 279 attempts for 2,310 yards and 26 touchdowns. He's suffered 15 interceptions.
Ferry's game-winning drive against St. Clairsville accurately defines one of the valley's most potent ground attacks.
Senior Tyrel Simmons may be the area's most durable runner. The Purple Rider's 6-foot-3, 190-pound brute assaulted Red Devils defenders last week for 221 yards and four touchdowns. Simmons needs 4 yards to reach 1,000 for the season.
In C.J. Williams, Ferry has a second home-run threat, albeit inside a much smaller package. The 5-6, 145-pound Williams has rolled for 861 yards with a dozen TDs.