Decades-old Enumclaw-White River football rivalry sidelined by state reclassification

Enumclaw and White River high schools have established a football rivalry that – with some glaring gaps – has spanned several generations.

The game has brought standing-room-only crowds and players have raced to take possession of the traveling trophy that rests in the winner’s school for the following year.

Now, the Hornet-Hornet rivalry game is off.

With the recent release of sports schedules for the fall season, a football battle between the cross-river rivals is not on the docket.

The primary reason is that Enumclaw and White River will participate in different divisions beginning in the fall. Reclassification of schools, a statewide process, caused great upheaval in the South Puget Sound League 3A, where four of the member schools found themselves landing in the smaller, 2A ranks.

Gone to a new SPSL 2A division, along with White River, are Clover Park, Frnaklin Pierce and Sumner. Remaining in the SPSL 3A are Enumclaw, Auburn Mountainview, Lakes, Bonney Lake and Peninsula and the league accepted a sixth member in Decatur High.

Despite playing in different SPSL divisions, each school had room in its fall schedule for nonleague contests – White River had two nonleague slots and Enumclaw had four.

Don Bartel, who heads the EHS program, said “it definitely was a conscious decision” to remove White River from the slate. But the reason, he said, has everything to do with wanting his team to excel.

Seeing much of the previous division slip into the 2A ranks, Bartel said, “opened up an opportunity for us to get the best nonleague games we could.” In the fall, his Hornets will tackle three teams that advanced deep into postseason play a season ago.

Bartel also is making a concerted effort to have his athletes compete on a larger playing field, to see what the top competition is like in other leagues.

“We want out kids looking beyond the Plateau,” he said.

He considered history, but found it wasn’t a deciding factor.

“I didn’t see it as us breaking a 100-year tradition,” Bartel said. When Enumclaw and White River have been in the same leagues, they’ve played each other; when in different league, the games haven’t been played, he said.

Chris Gibson, athletic director at White River, said everyone on campus was in favor of using a nonleague slot to play its historic rival.

“The first school I reached out to was Enumclaw,” Gibson said. “We expressed an interest in keeping the rivalry going. We felt it was important for our communities.”

With two nonleague weeks to fill, Gibson looked to keep the competition close and lined up games against Bonney Lake and Orting. With four nonleague holes in its schedule, Enumclaw High will take on Yelm, Union High, Timberline High and Capitol.

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