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The Deer Park Community

Deer Park, La Porte Rotarians unite for rivalry game memories

Written by Bobby Vasquez. Posted in Community

rotarywheeleditedIN OUR COMMUNITY
At Wednesday’s Rotary Club meeting, the Deer Park club was joined by its La Porte counterparts to celebrate Friday’s Deer-Bulldog rivalry football game. Members shared their memories and experiences of the Border Battle, which dates back to 1946.

Deer Park and La Porte. It’s a rivalry that spans eight decades and numerous generations. It’s life-long friendships put on hold until the game is over. It’s a week where hometown pride supersedes virtually everything else and the people over there are the “bad guys.” It ends with bragging rights at church, the grocery store, youth ball fields and the watercooler until next year’s game.

Friday’s annual Border Battle rivalry game between Deer Park and La Porte high schools has sparked what both community’s Rotary Clubs is a new tradition for the communities. At this week’s Rotary meeting, the Deer Park and La Porte clubs united to talk about the game and what it means to their respective communities.

“There was a rivalry, for sure,” said Bob Pizzitola of La Porte, who graduated from LPHS in 1963. “It was really not so much about wins and losses early on.”

While today’s La Porte and Deer Park communities share a lot of the same characteristics, the two towns were very different from each other in their formative years, said Pizzitola.

“The difference was money. Deer Park had it and La Porte didn’t,” he said. “We were always intrigued that Deer Park had all these great educational facilities and in La Porte, we couldn’t find two pennies to rub together. We were a very poor school district, yet we were right next door.”

Pizzitola said there was very little commerce and industry in those days in La Porte, forcing the school district to lay its entire financial burden on homeowner’s property taxes.

Many La Porte residents and students saw their Deer Park neighbors as the “haves” and themselves as the “have-nots.” With just a stretch of Underwood Road separating the two towns, the games began featuring extended family members and close friends playing against each other.

“Still, it was just another game, we just happened to be close in proximity. It wasn’t a long drive, so a lot of our fans would travel to Deer Park or Deer Park fans would come here and it grew,” he said.

The seeds of the rivalry had been planted.

With the rivalry came the pranks. Legend has it that in the 1960s, a group of La Porte students allegedly attempted to burn LP into the Deer Park football field. Their prank went awry when the entire football field was scorched, Pizzitola said.

In later years, schools were toilet papered and mascots were stolen. Unfortunately, the harmless pranks escalated to vandalism where property was either destroyed or damaged.

Chad Burke, who graduated from Deer said before one game, La Porte students successfully burned LP into the grass inside Clyde Abshier Stadium.

“(The Deer Park ISD grounds crew) did an excellent job fixing it up. They closed up the LP to look like a DP, painted it gold and put another one on the other side of the field so that it looked like it was supposed to be there,” he reminisced. “We thought it was pretty cool and it stayed like that for several years.”

Burke said for his generation, the rivalry began with good friends who played on the same youth league teams that were split up by Deer Park and La Porte school district boundaries.

“We’re lining up against someone who in the spring we’re gonna be on the same youth baseball team. We certainly didn’t want to lose to them,” he said. “We had the Deer Park Rams and the La Porte Cowboys. No one wanted to lose there either.”

In the early years of the Deer Park-La Porte match up, Deer Park dominated on the scoreboard. From 1946 to 1974, Deer Park led the series 13-4-1. Records were not kept in 1949 and 1950 and the two teams did not play in 1951 and from 1966-73.

Then came the streak. La Porte won 15 consecutive match ups when the teams played from 1975 to 1991.

“I think for Deer Park students, that’s when it turned into ‘man, we hate those guys,’” Burke joked. “They beat us every year. When we played them my senior year, it was a close game and for us, that was a moral victory because they would beat us pretty bad.”

Deer Park finally defeated La Porte in 1992. Since the end of the streak, La Porte leads the series 7-8 and 25-30-1 overall.

“As we get older, I think we get a better appreciation for what this rivalry is and has become. It’s a part of those Friday Night Lights and the legend of Texas High School Football,” Burke said. “We have two communities who are very close to each other, in not just proximity. The residents work, play and worship together and have for years. You don’t get this kind of rivalry everywhere. One side paints the town maroon and the other paints the town orange, they go at it and when it’s all over, we all go back to work together.”

Lloyd Graham, La Porte ISD, said it is his hope that the friendliness of the rivalry emanates to both district’s students.

“For us, it’s a fun rivalry where we can come into a setting like Rotary and talk about our respective communities. Come Friday night, we want all of the students and fans to get to game unharmed and leave unharmed,” he said.

Deer Park ISD Victor White echoed Graham’s sentiments.

“When you have opportunities for groups to come together like they will on Friday night, it’s special,” said White. “This is where our students learn things like character and how to be opponents on the field and leave shaking hands. It’s what makes our two communities so great.”

White said while on many occasions, young people receive a bad rapport for the actions of a few, Deer Park and La Porte is overrun with excellent students.

“Today’s students live in a different time and world, but they’re still kids. They can be influenced to good and that is what we try to do in both our school districts. When they have something that is worthy of their devotion, you will find them to be not any different than you and your classmates,” he said. “We’re in for a great evening on Friday night.”