Memories flood Shadyside vs. Bellaire history

For many this week has been like a trip down memory lane.

A lot has certainly changed in the 63 years since Bellaire and Shadyside last met on the football field.

However, the community pride and passion for the respective schools in both villages has remained the same.

It’ll be on full display Saturday afternoon at Nelson Field in Bellaire when the 1-1 Big Reds play host to the 2-0 Tigers at 12:30 before what is expected to be a very large turnout.

While the current rosters of Big Reds and Tigers will be deciding the latest outcome, many former players and alumni in both schools have spent the last several months, since the game’s signing was announced, thinking back to the prior 29 meetings.

The teams first met in 1909 with Bellaire pulling out a 6-5 victory. The Big Reds have certainly had the Tigers’ number, owning a commanding 24-2-3 advantage in the series. Taking that a step further, Shadyside didn’t score a point against Bellaire in 20 of those games.

To help honor the rich history of the schools and recognize the past, each school has selected an honorary captain for the game.

Jim Bittengle and Don Brinker will represent Shadyside and Bellaire, respectively. Both were key members of their squads in the 1950 affair, which was a 13-0 Bellaire victory.

Brinker had a big game in that showdown with the Tigers, scoring a touchdown in the 13-0 Big Reds’ victory.

“The Shadyside game was normally the first game of the season and everyone was always worked up for it,” Brinker said. “We had a really nice team that season. We were undefeated and OVAC champions.”

Bittengle was just a junior in the 1950 contest.

“We thought we had a good shot at Bellaire because we had nine starters back,” Bittengle said. “I remember Don (Brinker) running 60 yards for a touchdown and Bellaire stopped us inside the 10-yard line three or four times. Their defense was just great.”

Bittengle actually has a color film of that 1950 contest.

“Bud Bonar was the coach at Bellaire that season and Joe Dawson and I ran into him years and years ago and he gave us that film,” Bittengle said. “If you watch that, it will convince you that football has certainly come a long, long way.”

Both Brinker and Bittengle recall Nelson Field being simply packed for the game.

“We used to draw people from all over to the games at Bellaire,” Brinker said. “I am sure it’s a good thing for both schools to be playing each other again, especially since we’re so close.”

Brinker, whose son Terry just recently retired as Shadyside Local Schools Superintendent, was honored and surprised when Bellaire officials approached him to be the honorary captain.

Bittengle, who rarely misses a Tiger sporting event, was also honored.

“I bleed orange and I’ll be there,” Bittengle said.

Though Shadyside has only two wins all time against the Big Reds, the Tigers did spoil the debut of Nelson Field in 1934 with a 7-2 victory.

After the victory, Shadyside fans carried part of the goal post from the field back to Shadyside.

Shadyside eventually turned that goal post into souvenirs. Those were created by Charlie Noble, who is the late grandfather of former Shadyside High head coach Ty Fleming.

The pieces carved into a goal post with a football soaring over it. It’s painted orange and black and red and black is painted on the base and posts.

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On top of the history of the games, this week’s game has probably tested many families’ resolve. Many Shadyside and Bellaire graduates have married over the years and it’s caused some decisions to be made this week.

To help offset the issue, Gahanna resident Bethany Bella, whose family is completely divided between Shadyside and Bellaire graduates, designed a shirt that she’ll be working at Nelson Field Saturday that shows support for both schools.

“This game is immensely important to my family,” Bella said. “I think this game is one of the most anticipated sporting events in the Ohio Valley.”

Bella’s parents – Bill and Patty (Luke) Bella – are 1980 and 82 Shadyside grads, respectively. Her grandparents, Bill Bella Sr., Bill Luke and Martha Trolley, are Bellaire graduates.

Both of her aunts, Sharon Luke-Holland and Janice Bella-Neuhart, are Shadyside graduates. Of her great aunts and uncles, three are Bellaire graduates and four are Shadyside graduates.

Bella pointed out that her great-grandfather, Ed Trolley, whom she never met, played for Bellaire and was a team captain in the 1935 game between the two schools.

For winning that game, the members of the Big Reds received a golden football with the letter ‘B’ and year engraved on it.

Bethany was given this piece of memorabilia when she was 10 years old.

“I wear it every time I return to the Ohio Valley,” Bethany said. “Of course, I will be wearing it (on Saturday) to the game.”

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Shadyside head coach Mark Holenka’s father, Mike, is a Bellaire High graduate. He’ll actually be celebrating his 96th birthday Saturday at Nelson Field.