STORY: After A Six-Year Hiatus, Point Pleasant and Gallia Academy Are Excited For “Battle of the Bridge” Renewal

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“Let’s have a day.”

This seemingly non-descript phrase has become the rallying cry for the Gallia Academy Blue Devils as they prepare to reignite the “Battle of the Bridge” rivalry with their West Virginia neighbor Point Pleasant on Friday night.

The last time these two teams played was in 2008, the year in which Barack Obama was first elected President, the iPhone 3G was revolutionizing the mobile phone industry, and the Big Blacks were playing in an Ohio football conference.

The following season, Point Pleasant moved into West Virginia class AA football, but now that they have moved up to AAA. With the move, they have more flexibility in scheduling to renew this rivalry that dates back to the 1930’s. Now that they are back on the schedule, the renewal of the rivalry has got many people in Gallipolis, including junior Blue Devils quarterback Kole Carter’s competitive juices flowing.

“Every day [assistant coach] Clint Saunders comes out and tells ‘let’s have a day’ and it gets the blood going through my veins,” Carter said.

Many of the players in Gallia’s locker room feel the same way, with Blue Devils coach Josh Riffe lighting a fire under the team after a tough 21-14 loss to Marietta last week has the team sitting with a 2-2 record. Riffe is excited to have the rivalry game at this point in the schedule to re-energize his team, and despite not being around when the Gallia-Point Pleasant rivalry was in full effect, he knows how much a win would mean for his team.

“[The team] has a little more pep in their step, I’d say, than compared to normal weeks,” Riffe said. “They are excited about this.

“A win would be great. We’re 2-2 right now and you should always look to stay on the winning side of a record. Plus I think Point Pleasant, to me, they look like they’re going to make a playoff run in West Virginia so it’s a high caliber team to beat.”

The all-time series record is 40-34 in Gallia’s favor, but that hasn’t stopped the massive influx of passion and expectation on the other side of the Ohio River, as the Big Blacks prepare to defend their status as one of the most dangerous teams in West Virginia.

Point Pleasant coach Dave Darst is very confident of his team’s players on both sides of the ball, pointing out that both his offense and defense are ranked No. 1 in the state of West Virginia. The results that they have produced this season have given credence to his statements.

Through the four games this season, the Big Blacks have scored a total of 207 points, which averages to 51.7 points per game. Compare that to the defensive side of the football, where they have allowed just 22 points, or an average of just 5.5 points per game.

Even though he has never taken part in this series, Point Pleasant quarterback Aden Yates knows what’s at stake for both teams.

“This is definitely a big game for us,” Yates said. “It really means a lot because these are people that you have to grow up with. You’re going to meet them later on in life and it’s nice to say you actually won that game the one time we actually got to play each other.”

In years past, the crowds and atmospheres at the games have been wild, including the teams branding each other’s field, as well as some mid-game fistfights. However, both coaches are hoping for a more civilized renewal of the rivalry this season.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be any tension throughout the game, as both teams will be gunning for the bragging rights.

“We are going to see them after the game and throughout the year, so we want bragging rights,” said Blue Devils senior kicker Dylan Saunders.

Kole Carter is also knows that the meaning of the game extends beyond the history of the schools. 

“We all have personal vendettas for some people and it will all come up Friday,” Carter said. “It mean’s a lot that we have them on the schedule because we get to play them this year and next year. Going out 2-0 as the quarterback at Gallia Academy would be awesome.”

Yates and a few other Big Blacks have a several childhood memories of watching the “Battle of the Bridge” rivalry from the stands, or more accurately, the side of the field.

One of the few memories Yates has is playing football against the kids from Gallipolis and not really focusing on the actual game on the field.

His teammate, senior slot receiver Gage Buskirk, can also remember his seventh grade year, which was the last time that both teams played, where a heart-breaking play has left a bad taste in Point Pleasant's mouth for the last six years.

“One of [Point Pleasant's] better players fumbled the ball on the 2-yard line,” Buskirk said. “[Gallia] returned it for a touchdown and won the game.”

But with the prolific efficiency that Point displays on both sides of the ball, the Blue Devils may not have such luck on their side when they travel across the bridge on Friday.

Regardless of the result though, Riffe is just happy that the rivalry has been renewed.

“It’s a game that should happen,” Riffe said. “It’s a rivalry, it’s natural from where the two towns are.

“But you know it’s more of ‘let’s go out and play physical and hard against one another but afterwards just be able to shake each other’s hands and be okay with whatever happens.’”