For good reason, first-year Boulder head coach Vincent Smith smiles broadly when asked about his football rivals growing up.
Of course, the Arizona-Arizona State tussle is nationally known as the Duel in the Desert, and Smith was part of that for four years.
But he may have been even more proud this week reminiscing about his youth in Los Angeles, going to Locke High and routing its two main rivals, memories that have not diminished in nearly 30 years.
"My rival in high school was Los Angeles Jordan, and we dominated that series pretty well, so I have to say I've been on the plus side of the rivalries I've been a part of," Smith said after his Panthers practiced Tuesday night. "I'm hoping we can start a new thing here, and we'll see what happens.
"Rivalries are great for high school athletics, and it's especially great that these schools are so close in proximity. For us, it's like the Homecoming festivities before our actual Homecoming."
Smith may have yet to see the Boulder-Fairview rivalry play out — that comes this Friday at Recht Field (6 p.m.) when the Panthers host the Knights in the 53rd meeting between the teams — but he is aware of its importance to the community. As an offensive lineman originally recruited by Colorado, he recalled the buzz in Boulder prior to the game in 1988 when Smith was a Buff.
Despite the fact Fairview has ruled the series the past 11 years, little has changed. A spacious Recht Field may have sparse attendance during the season for both teams on a regular basis, but fans from both schools continue to pack the antiquated venue for this battle. And you can always expect shenanigans typical of a mostly teenaged crowd (we're looking at you, streakers).
For the crowd — for the family members who make the game a reunion of sorts, for the alumni who may only get to come to this one contest a year, and for the younger generation of players waiting for their turn to participate — it is a fun atmosphere to soak up.
And for both Smith and Fairview coach Tom McCartney, it's supposed to be as much fun out on the football field. For McCartney in particular, the game has meant everything in regards to the regular season no matter what week "Boulder Week" happens to fall.
This year it falls on Week 2 and Boulder (0-1) will be entering the game trying to shake off a loss against Denver South; Fairview (1-0) beat Horizon to open the season, but a big lead dwindled at the hands of the Hawks.
"It doesn't matter if it's your first time involved or your 40th, you feel the energy involved," Smith said. "But it is going to be a win for somebody and a loss for somebody. We want to make sure our mission of getting better remains the same. The season doesn't end with Fairview."
"We talk about the game often, early and often to be honest because it is so very important to the community," McCartney said, always referring to Boulder as a benchmark game year in and year out. "It's always part of our dialogue in the offseason, always part of our dialogue as we train and prepare. Having the game in Week 2, it really does bring importance to the early part of the season."
As far as the series, it's been all smiles for the Knights since 2003. Fairview has won 10 of 11 meetings since, with the 10-7 FHS win in 2010 the closest the game has been in several years.
But records and the past do not matter much, said Fairview sophomore defensive back Bryce DesJardins.
"This game is the key to the city and it's our big game and we know it's Boulder's big game," DesJardins said. "From my perspective, I remember coming out to watch it even before high school, and there's an excitement to it that I can't wait to play it. The older players on our team have made an impression on the younger guys, just that it's something to where you want to walk around with your head held high afterwards. But they've stressed that stats and numbers don't matter because it's going to be a battle no matter what."
"The thing about this rivalry that is so unique is each game stands on its own, and it does not matter what happened last year or even last week," McCartney echoed. "We look at this particular Friday night as the 2016 Fairview team and our opportunity to play in the rivalry. We have great respect for our opponent and we have to try and execute our game plan."