By Ashleigh Arnaud
It’s rivalry week in Southeast Texas as the Nederland Bulldogs and Port Neches Groves Indians are set to kick off on Friday night at 7pm in Port Neches. This will be the 92nd matchup for these two teams making it one of the oldest rivalries in Texas.
The game picked up the name Mid-County Madness in the 90’s and now it is called the Bum Phillips Bowl. Phillips coached at both Nederland and Port Neches Groves and later went on to become the winningest coach in franchise history of the Houston Oilers. Bum Phillips died at the age of 90 at his ranch in Goliad in 2013 during the third quarter of the rivalry game tied at 7-7.
“This is what my dad would have wanted, his two favorite schools tied when he took his last breath.” Wade Phillips, Bum Phillips’ son, went to school in Nederland until 5th grade then played football in high school at Port Neches and is now a defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos said. The trophy that is now given at the game is a cowboy hat on top of a football symbolizing Bum’s signature cowboy hat on the sidelines.
This game could easily be argued as the most intense rivalry in Texas with around 15,000 fans in the stadium and the atmosphere feeling like a college game. As a Nederland High School Alumna I still feel the excitement and urge to want to win four hours away from home. This rivalry is not just a Friday night game to everyone in the community it is a full week of preparing for the game. Both schools participate in what is called “Spirit Week” which is where every student in the school dresses up every day during the week to show their enthusiasm for the upcoming game. This includes days like camo day, superhero day, celebrity day, PNG/NHS nerd day, throwback Thursday, black and gold day, or purple and white day. Even the teachers and principles get dressed up, so it is definitely a memorable week.
PN-G leads the series 48-35-7, but Nederland won the first Bum Phillips trophy last year and is going into this game with 5 straight wins against PN-G. A lot of people in these two towns work together, know each other, or might even have family at the other school. These people aren’t just talking about the game this week they have been talking about it and looking forward to hopefully seeing their team win all year. During this week when you go over the railroad tracks you don’t smile and wave like normal you sort of just give a confident knod thinking in your head “yea, my team is going to win on Friday.”
What makes this game so special is that the majority of the boys playing will unfortunately not play at the next level and this will be the biggest football moment of their life. This rivalry game will be their “glory days” story that they will tell their kids and grandkids some day. Those stories and all the kids who see those high school football players as their heroes will keep this tradition alive for years to come.