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Bisbee Pumas and Douglas Bulldogs to meet for the 153rd time

Posted at 6:49 PM, Aug 30, 2023

DOUGLAS, Ariz. (KGUN) — Southeast Arizona is home to one of the country’s oldest high school football rivalries, but to the communities involved it is much more than just a game.

On Friday, Sept. 1, the Bisbee Pumas will travel 25 miles to take on the Douglas Bulldogs in a game that will draw in thousands of fans.

Bisbee and Douglas first played against one another in 1906. This year’s game will be the 153rd meeting between the Bisbee Pumas and Douglas Bulldogs.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Douglas has a population of just under 16,000 and Bisbee has a population of about 5,000. Both Douglas and Bisbee are home to only one public high school each, which means fans are not only rooting for a school, but an entire town.

“It’s the one game that everyone circles on the calendar every year ... People ask if you're a football player and the next question is, ‘Are you going to win the Pick this year?’ It means a lot to both communities and is steeped in rich tradition,” DHS Head Football Coach Hunter Long said.

Long enters his fifth season as the team’s Head Coach. However, even before becoming a coach, he was very familiar with the rivalry. Long grew up in Douglas and played for the Bulldogs during his time in high school.

Bisbee’s Head Coach, Shawn Holley, is new to the program and the area, but says he has been learning about the importance of the rivalry.

“I’ve been hearing about it since I got here. This is the 153rd meeting, which is a long time,” Holley said.

BHS Quarterback Sebastian Lopez will be playing in this game for his third time on Friday and is eyeing his first win.

“It means everything to us. Everybody in Bisbee and Douglas, everybody comes to that game. It’s been going on forever and it’s a big part of the community. It’s what people dream for—to win a game like this.”

Douglas has won the game the last two years.

Emiliano Berthely, who is looking to play football at the collegiate level, explained how important it is to him to win this game during his senior year.

“It’s very important to me, I find winning very important to me because I am not trying to lose “The Pick” during my senior year; because then it defeats the whole purpose of my senior year,” Berthely said.

While the rivalry has remained strong over the last century-and-a-half, there have been a few changes to the game itself.

The Copper Pick Trophy became part of the tradition in 1944.

Bisbee School Board President, Carol Loy said,“Phelps Dodge donated the money. The copper was mined in Bisbee and smelted in Douglas. And they made the Pick.”

The Copper Pick is exchanged between the teams, depending on who wins each year.

Up until 1964, the game was played on Thanksgiving Day. Douglas won the last Thanksgiving Day game 26-21.

In more recent years, a flag football game was added to the week’s schedule of events.

Joni Giacomino, who has worked in both the Douglas and Bisbee school districts said,“It’s a great way for the girls to share that competitive edge too.”

The rivalry between the two towns expands far beyond the football field.

“The miners from Bisbee and the miners from Douglas would get into fights—cops were always here. They took their fights not only to the football stadium but also into town,” Loy said. “Did a lot of damage actually. It was very intense and fierce.”

Douglas and Bisbee both have hills with their respective town’s initial on it, but the letter sometimes gets madeover into the other town’s letter.

“The “B” usually lost a line during the season. The “D” gained a line in the middle of it.”

While traditions have changed, one thing has remained the same: Everyone has the same thing on their mind, and that's winning the game.

Both head coaches are feeling confident in each of their teams’ abilities.

“We’re feeling good, the guys are confident. They have a different energy about them, you know it’s contagious throughout the entire community,” Holley said.

“Our guys are playing for each other and they put in that work in the off-season. They are always together, they’re in the weight room, putting in the work on the field. And they show it now here on the field, they’re all buddies, they get along, and they play for each other,” Long said.

Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Armando De Lucas Stadium in Douglas on Friday, Sept. 1.

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Madison Thomas joined KGUN 9 in July of 2023 as a multimedia journalist. She graduated from Arizona State University in May of 2023 with a degree in journalism and mass communication. She has lived in Arizona her entire life and grew up in Douglas. Madison is thrilled to share the stories from the community she grew up in. Share your story ideas and important issues with Madison by emailing madison.thomas@kgun9.com or by connecting on InstagramTwitter or Facebook.