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Commission President Rocky Smith issues proclamation for longest continuously played rivalry game west of the Mississippi.

COURTESY PHOTO: CITY OF OC - Oregon City Commission President Rocky Smith proclaims April 2 as Oregon City-West Linn Rivalry Day."This is a big deal," Oregon City Commission President Rocky Smith said this week, before proclaiming April 2, 2021, to be "Oregon City-West Linn Rivalry Day."

Smith noted that the 100th anniversary of the football rivalry is worthy of broad recognition as the longest continuously played rivalry west of the Mississippi River. The game itself will be a quieter event than usual, given strict limits on the size of gatherings due to the ongoing pandemic.

"We know that most people will not be able to actually see the game in person, so we're hoping there are ways that people will be able to see it virtually, but we're also working on other ways to commemorate this exciting event," Smith said.

JOHN LARIVIERE - Oregon City and West Linn Battle for the Bridge alumni players join together to pose for a photo with Battle Hall of Fame inductees John Denny, Ed Burton, Joe Cerny and Ron Chappell during halftime ceremonies of the 2015 Battle for the Bridge Alumni Football Game. The alumni players are intense rivals during the game, but off the field they have become good friends as they come together in the battle to eradicate cystic fibrosis.Oregon City High School and West Linn High School, formerly known as Union High School, have competed in football continuously since 1921, except during the pandemic of 2020, a game that was delayed until this April. Since the beginning of the rivalry in 1921, there has only been one tied score, in 1936. Oregon City has 50 wins, and West Linn has had 48 wins in the 99 games played so far.

"Even if we don't become victorious (on April 2), we're still ahead in the whole series," Smith said.

PMG PHOTO: BRIAN MONIHAN - West Linn junior running back Gavin Haines breaks a 47-yard TD run during his team's 52-7 win over Oregon City in 2019 at West Linn High School.Smith and West Linn Mayor Jules Walters signed the proclamation on behalf of the cities "to recognize the efforts of … citizens to create and maintain a positive family environment where children can learn the value of constructive competition." To commend all citizens who have participated in this annual gridiron classic, and to support the efforts of the current teams, the proclamation noted how both cities "value tradition and history as essential parts" of their communities.

During the March 17 commission meeting, Smith traced the football rivalry to a commercial rivalry between Oregon City founder John McLoughlin and Robert Moore, the founder of Linn City, which later became West Linn. McLoughlin and Moore could see each other's houses on the opposite sides of the Willamette River, and they competed on behalf of their respective cities until their deaths, one day apart, in 1857.

PMG PHOTOS - West Linn's Gavin Haines (left) and Oregon City's Morpheus Nithikhun led their teams into the 99th annual Battle for the Bridge in 2019."Oregon City desires that the Pioneers again defeat the Lions and the City Council of West Linn desires that the Lions again defeat the Pioneers," Walters and Smith's signed statement says. "We further recommend, in the spirit of the day, that all citizens wear clothing of the appropriate colors, and refrain from crossing the river, unless business requires, until game time."

According to an email from West Linn High School Principal Greg Neuman, due to COVID-19 a maximum of 150 people (including players, coaches, officials and trainers) are currently allowed at outdoor venues in Clackamas County like Lions Stadium. Indoor venues, like gymnasiums, may host 50% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer.

"Given these requirements, the number of spectators in attendance at West Linn High School will vary by sport," Neuman's email stated. "For example, a varsity soccer game at West Linn High School would involve 70 to 75 participants (players, coaches, trainers and administrative supervisors), leaving 70 to 75 tickets to be distributed to families."

Since football teams carry more players and coaches, Neuman noted that there may not be capacity left for spectators at some games.

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