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Oregon City and West Linn alumni don pads for the fifth time as they renew the 'Battle for the Bridge' on Aug. 8



West Linn High School’s football stadium will be packed at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8, as alumni from Oregon City and West Linn high schools do battle against one another in the fifth annual Battle for the Bridge alumni football game.

JOHN DENNY - The Oregon City vs. West Linn football rivalry means a lot to Bob Mahoney, who was quarterback for Oregon City High School's football team in 1954 and 1955. Mahoney, age 78, hopes to step on the gridiron and play a down or two at this year's Battle for the Bridge Oregon City vs. West Linn alumni football game, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8, at West Linn High School. 'The rivalry, it gets in your blood,' Mahoney says. In the photo, Mahoney is pictured with Oregon City alumni linemen (left to right) Thad Rogers, Brendan Rogers, James Rogers, Wyatt Griffith and Grant Hicks.The game is a fundraiser for the Boomer Esiason Foundation, an organization dedicated to finding a cure for and helping individuals with cystic fibrosis.

Town & Country Honda of Gladstone returns as the title sponsor of this year’s Battle for the Bridge, which has raised over $80,000 in the “battle” against cystic fibrosis in its first four seasons.

The alumni game is a renewal of sorts of the rivalry between Oregon City and West Linn high school football teams, which have played one another in football every year since 1921, in what is heralded as the oldest uninterrupted high school football rivalry west of the Mississippi.

Oregon City holds a 50-43-1 advantage in the high school series and a 3-1 advantage in the Bridge alumni series. The high school games are typically hard fought, close games; and it’s been the same for the Battle for the Bridge games. Oregon City won 23-14 in 2011, 16-15 in 2013 and 24-9 last summer; West Linn won 36-35 in 2012.

Graduates from both schools have had children afflicted with cystic fibrosis, and that gives the alumni players additional motivation to play hard and leave it all on the field.

Sophia Giammanco has been the poster child for Battle for the Bridge. Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at two months of age, Sophia is the reason that there is a Battle for the Bridge football game.

Sophia’s dad, Ian Giammanco, and classmate Trent Tribou are both graduates of West Linn High School, and they came up with the idea for the Battle for the Bridge five years ago.

Giammanco explained how the alumni game between Oregon City and West Linn came to be:

“Trent and I grew up together, playing sports, and we were in the same graduating class (1994). Trent is one of my best friends and is Sophia’s godfather. We wanted to come up with a way to raise money to fund research to find a cure for cystic fibrosis, and with neither of us being the black-tie-auction-sort, Trent did some research online and found an opportunity to raise money through an alumni football game.

“With the long and storied rivalry between West Linn and Oregon City high school football teams, we figured it would be the perfect way to involve both communities, meet new and old friends, have fun, and raise money for CF.

“We fully expected the Battle for the Bridge game to be a one-time deal. But there were a lot of guys who had a blast participating. And guys like Mack Dolsen, Dave Norman and Justin Fisher stepped up to continue the game and grow it into what it is today.”

Sophia, who is now 8 years of age and is a third grader at E.D. Ridge Elementary School in Sherwood, says she is excited about once again being an honorary captain for West Linn’s team at this year’s alumni football game. She still has to use a nebulizer morning and night and she needs to take enzymes before meals to aid with digestion. But her parents say she is doing well.

Russell Schneider, a 2001 graduate of Oregon City High School who excels as a quarterback in semi-pro football, returns to lead the Pioneers in this year’s Battle for the Bridge game.

Schneider who has quarterbacked the Oregon City alumni team every year, has said of his motivation to play in the game: “The thing about the Battle for the Bridge is it’s so different from semi-pro football. I get to come back home and hang out with people I grew up with, and make some new friends. And I get to coach. I actually do more coaching than playing. Plus, it’s for such a great cause.”

The Battle for the Bridge alumni game will have another Oregon City alumnus who hopes to take a couple of snaps in this year’s game. His name is Bob Mahoney, and at 78 years of age, he will become the oldest alumnus to have participated in the game.

A 1956 graduate of Oregon City High School, he was the varsity quarterback under coach Chuck Elliott his junior and senior years.

“I was quarterback and I punted,” Mahoney said of his high school years. “I was a pretty decent punter.... When I was in high school we had 750 students and all of the athletes played three sports. We were all good friends. Hugh Hendry was in my class. He was a pitcher in baseball. We placed third in the state in baseball and he signed with the Yankees.”

“I haven’t thrown a football in 30 years,” Mahoney said. “I came down here tonight and found out I can still throw. A lot of times it’s into the ground, but I can still throw.”

Mahoney said he showed up at the alumni football practice for moral support, although he’d love to play a down or two in the alumni game, if he can get permission from his wife.

“The rivalry, it gets in your blood,” he said. “I think it’s great these guys give up their time and risk injury and come back to renew the rivalry. It’s very commendable on their part. They represent their communities and one of the longest rivalries in the U.S. It’s a shame the high schools aren’t in the same league anymore. I think the OSAA needs to reconsider and put them back in the same league.”

Mahoney added, “I came down here to throw a few footballs, lend moral support and light a few candles — before someone’s lighting one for me.”

Ken Boettcher, 54, a 1979 graduate of West Linn High School, will be the oldest player vying for the Lions in this year’s battle. His son Brad, a 2002 West Linn graduate, is also playing in the game. Brad, when he was in high school, was a third generation player in the Oregon City vs. West Linn football rivalry, as his grandfather Ken Boettcher Sr. (class of 1952) also played football at West Linn.

Oregon City this year has a third generation player in Jerry Stone. Stone’s grandfather Charles Gates played center for Oregon City in 1936, when Oregon City and West Linn football teams battled to a scoreless tie. Oregon City had a record of 7-0-1 that year.

Tickets for Saturday night’s fifth annual Battle for the Bridge game cost $10, and they may be purchased at the gate or online at www.battleforthebridge.com.

Among West Linn alumni expected to play in the game are: Ian Giammanco, Andy Mervyn, Ben Trussell, Brad Boettcher, Brad Rose, Brendan Pitts, Bryan Hays, Chris Bair, Christian Wilson, Cody Loth, David Cote, David Norman, Jack Cannon, James Halicki, Jason Beaudoin, Jim Johnson, Mack Dolsen, Michael Wilson, Mike Maloney, Todd MacClanathan, Mitch Hoveke, Ray  Kauffman, Taylor Rose, Payton Germain, Jaquawn Brookins, Brad Rose, Zack Sramek, Shawn Corlew, Kevin Menne, Mychal Zito, Andrew Kehoe, Ted Schultz, Brett Wilkerson, Michael MacClanathan, DJ Clark, Kyle Murto, Terrell Young, Mitch Vogt, Braden Vogt, Ray Kauffmann and Louie Germain.

This is the fifth year playing in the “Battle for the Bridge” for Giammanco, Mervyn, Wilkerson, Trussell, Michael Wilson, Dolsen, Maloney, Kauffmann and Todd MacClanathan.

Michael MacClanathan, a 2010 graduate of West Linn High School who played at Linfield, said of his motivation to play in the Battle for the Bridge alumni game: “Over the years, I have come to understand that there is more to life than what the eye can see. Coaches are more than big headed bosses telling you what to do; leaders pull the heavy loads rather than encourage others to push; and super heroes walk around in camouflage rather than capes. But there is one thing that continues to surprise me with life-long lessons. And that is the sport of football.

“When I first joined Battle for the Bridge, I witnessed what many see when they look at the playing field — a bunch of guys not ready to hang up the hat. Though I was still playing college ball at the time, I knew that this was soon to be my only chance of getting a fix playing football. What I did not realize is that it would become much more.

“While playing for Linfield, I began to understand the secret behind the success of the program. It is something that every team can have but many fail to achieve. Family structure. We never played for ourselves, but for each other. The selfless players were always the most successful because they had the trust and the support of their entire team. After four years of playing in this environment, it was then I was able to see that Battle for the Bridge is more than just a football game.

“Each year, when I walk onto that field I am surrounded by the most selfless players. Each of the players are ready to play for something bigger then themselves. They are all ready to be a part of something incredible. Even though I have not experienced the hardship and struggles that drive many of these players to fight for the ones they love, I found myself doing whatever it takes to help them through their adversity.

“So why do I participate? It is not for the pride and glory of being the best. It is not for cheers and whistles when we step on the field. It is for the men right beside me in the green and gold, and the red and white. It is for those who understand the true meaning of what this organization stands for. It is for those who fight against the adversity that challenges their health and their way of life.

“As I raise my metaphorical glass, I thank my extended family on both sides of the Bridge. I can only hope that my involvement in this organization will help to continue this tradition for years to come.

“Thank you to everyone for allowing me to be a part of the family.”

Among Oregon City alumni who have signed up to play in this year’s Oregon City vs. West Linn Battle for the Bridge alumni football game are: Jerry Stone, Thad Rogers, Mike Canchola, Erik Olson, Russ Schneider, Ryan Wells, Joe Wolf, Quinten Baxter, Jon Hummel, Ryan Versoza, Cameron Martin, Jeff Hower, Brendan Rogers, Justin Fisher, Mike Short, Bob Mahoney, James Rogers, Savi Rivera, Omar Rivera, Pedro Rivera, Brandon Espy, John Hummel, Cody Weber, Steve Stenger, Lucas Spooner, Chris Strandberg, K.C. Lopez, Wyatt Griffith, Keith Arnold, Nico Minor, Devon Hohensee and Grant Hicks.

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