Epic rivalry: Spartans face Vikings Friday

Lucas Clark and Tyler Hannon drag down a Viking foe during last year’s rivalry game at North Kitsap. Bainbridge stunned the Vikings, 44-41. - Review file photo
Lucas Clark and Tyler Hannon drag down a Viking foe during last year’s rivalry game at North Kitsap. Bainbridge stunned the Vikings, 44-41.
— image credit: Review file photo

Bainbridge comes into the game with bragging rights, after last year’s 44-41 win.

They’re separated by only a bridge and a few miles – 11.2 to be exact.

And the battle between Bainbridge and North Kitsap in football has been as fierce as the Hatfields and the McCoys.

Other sports have taken to the Spartan-Viking rivalry even though the schools now play in different leagues, and the larger North Kitsap school competes at the 4A level.

But nowhere is it more prominent than on the football field, where the contest enjoys the highest gates of the season.

“As with any neighboring district, there is a rivalry,” first-year Vikings head coach Steve Frease said. “(Bainbridge and North Kitsap) kids have always competed in youth leagues, so there’s familiarity.

“It’s like two brothers,” he added, “and you want to take it to your brothers.”

When Frease takes the sideline versus the Spartans at Memorial Stadium on Friday, he’ll have about as unique an understanding of the rivalry as anyone.

A lifetime island resident and former star player for Bainbridge, he has three children who have been Spartans. He even helped coach the 1981 team that beat NK for the last time before last year’s stunning 44-41 upset by Bainbridge. He has also spent more than two decades as a North Kitsap teacher and coach.

In the late 1970s, he recalls, sometimes violent scuffles between students broke out after games. It took the coaches, including longtime NK coach Jerry Parrish and coach Gordon Prentice of Bainbridge to calm students down, with the skippers traveling to each other’s schools to speak at pep assemblies to tranquilize the passions.

Bainbridge athletic director and former football coach Neal White also took steps to ensure things wouldn’t get out of hand.

“I had to speak at a North Kitsap assembly in my first year (in 1983) at the school to calm down the heat,” White said. “I don’t want to stir it up again. We have a rock and they have a rock. They paint (ours) in their colors, and we paint theirs in our colors.”

BHS coach Andy Grimm who has lived on the island since he was an infant, played for the Spartans from 1982 to 1985. He heard the stories, but also had several friends on the North Kitsap team during his time on the team.

“Through some mutual friends I had six or seven guys I knew very well,” Grimm said. “In the summer we would go water-skiing or go to a game. But that Friday night whenever we played, it was a war.

“I love the rivalry but I’m a proponent of doing it the positive way,” he said. “I’d rather see it blossom on the field. And it’s been that way the last five to 10 years and I know it’ll be that way even more with Steve on the field.”

Advantage: NK

On the field, it’s gone one way – North Kitsap’s.

Before last year’s victory, the last time the Spartans defeated the Vikings was in 1981.

If you take a look at the entire series, which dates back to the early 1940s, even with the teams being in different divisions for many years, it turns into a version of the UW-WSU rivalry – North is ahead in the series by a lot.

Tom Paski, who started coaching the Spartans back in 1947, the same year the Olympic League was formed, remembers his first game very well.

“We were loaded,” Paski said. “We had a good team, and then they came in and wiped the floor with us 40-0.”

The next year wasn’t pretty either, as future WSU and New York Giants standout Harland Svare led the Vikings to a 40-24 victory.

But the third year of Paski’s coaching tenure was the charm, as his squad shut out the Vikings 12-0 on the day before his birthday.

The win made the front page of the Review the following week.

“From then on, (North Kitsap) won most of the ballgames,” he said. “We were usually outmanned.

“They were always tough, they were always big. We were a small school at the time. Where they had 22 kids that would play offense and defense, we had 15 that would have to go both ways.”

Another memory that stands out was a game in 1958 when Spartan Herb Allen clobbered Viking quarterback Steve Maddox.

“Maddox was trying to play a double reverse and our kid (Allen) hit him so hard right at the exchange, he split his Riddell plastic helmet in half,” Paski said, chuckling at the memory.

“We didn’t win too many, but the ones we did win, we were pretty proud of them.”

Virg Taylor, a coach in North Kitsap for more than four decades, recalled the 1976 football season when Bainbridge beat North, 15-14.

When basketball season came around, he said, the Spartan fans chanted the football score the entire game just to rub in the defeat a little longer.

Fan involvement has not always been pretty. Taylor can remember the team buses being egged – in both directions and for both teams. But it demonstrates just how personal the contests can become, he said.

“It’s been a monster rivalry over the years,” Taylor said. “They’ve always been a great rival, and I expect it to continue.”

White also has his share of memories.

“We went to North in my third year,” he said. “We had a sophomore quarterback Greg Fisher and we ran a run-n-shoot offense. He had a great first half and we led 21-7, but they came back and beat us.”

His favorite may be last year’s victory, a wild contest in which touted Viking quarterback Jared Prince and Spartan star Grant Leslie combined for 500 yards and 10 touchdown passes, before Bainbridge squeaked by on an Angelo Ritualo field goal.

“Last year was as great a game as I’ve ever seen,” White said. “It had everything. It was a great shootout.”

Grimm said it was one of the biggest wins of his coaching career, but not in the way a championship win defines it.

“It was big in that sense just because it had been a long time,” he said. “As a former player, I never beat North, but it was fun for my staff at the time, as three of my staff were former players who had never beaten North either.

“My wife teaches with Steve (Frease) in the PE department, so I got to razz him all year.”

Grimm still has people come up and talk to him about the win, but he doesn’t want to gloat, because he knows there’s always the next contest.

“You can joke about it and have fun but you can’t (rub it in), because that stuff bites you if you feed off that stuff all the time,” Grimm said. “It becomes a karma thing.”

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