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'Battle for the Bridge'

OC and West Linn alumni renew their longtime rivalry on Aug. 13
by: JOHN DENNY Oregon City alumni football players (from left) Jason Leiby, Jason Stone, Jerry Stone (kneeling) and Brent Herren meet and fall in love with 4-year-old Sophia Giammanco. “She’s the reason we’re doing this,” says Oregon City/West Linn alumni football game organizer Trent Tribou. “We want them to find a cure [for Cystic Fibrosis] so that Sophia will have a long, long life.” The fundraising football game for the Oregon chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is set for 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, at West Linn High School.

Saturday, Aug. 13, will be a special day for fans of Oregon City High School and West Linn High School athletics, and the alumni of those two schools.

At 6 p.m. on Aug. 13, former football players from the two rivals will take to the gridiron at West Linn for what is being billed as the first annual 'Battle for the Bridge' alumni football game.

The game is a benefit for the Oregon chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and it's a renewal, of sorts, of one of the oldest high school football rivalries in the nation. Oregon City and West Linn high school teams have met on the gridiron every year without exception since 1921.

The idea for the game came from former West Linn schoolmates Ian Giammanco and Trent Tribou - West Linn Class of 1994.

'Ian and I have been close friends since we were 3 years old,' said Tribou. 'Ian's daughter Sophia is my goddaughter. Sophia, and finding a cure for Cystic Fibrosis, that's been my motivation.'

The Giammanco's learned that Sophia had Cystic Fibrosis when she was two weeks old, and since then it's been a daily vigil for them, tending to their daughter and her special needs.

'They're making great progress to finding a cure,' said Tribou. 'Just 10 years ago the life expectancy for someone with Cystic Fibrosis was 15. Now it's 36. We want to add 50 years to Sophia's life expectancy and get rid of [Cystic Fibrosis] all together….

'Our goal is to raise $20,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation [through the Aug. 13 alumni game].'

Giammanco and Tribou have additional motivation for making the Oregon City/West Linn alumni game their Cystic Fibrosis fundraiser. West Linn's football team lost to Oregon City in double overtime their senior year.

'It would be nice to get some revenge for that loss,' Tribou says.

Each school has close to 50 alumni who have signed up to renew the football rivalry on Aug. 13, and the former players have been practicing hard in preparation for the upcoming full-contact alumni game.

Oregon City's oldest returning player, Rick Schneider, says he has plenty of motivation.

'I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate 50-plus years than to put pads back on one more time,' said Schneider, who graduated from Oregon City High School in 1976.

The Pioneer old-timer added, 'I've had a chance to look around. A lot of these guys are pretty talented, and I think this will be my chance to be on the winning team. The quarterback has a great arm. He'll throw the ball around, and he's got a ton of good receivers.'

Schneider, whose son Russ Schneider will be one of Oregon City's quarterbacks, noted that the Pioneers never defeated West Linn in his four years at Oregon City High School.

Russ Schneider, a 2001 graduate, has credentials. Playing quarterback for the Portland Monarchs semi-professional football team, he was recently named the Pacific Football League Player of the Year.

Ed Burton, Greg Lord and Brian Bean are coaching Oregon City's alumni team, while Ron Chappell, Tom Ogan and Gene Davis are coaching West Linn's team.

'I'm having fun getting together with former players and catching up on their lives,' said Burton. 'There are lots and lots of stories and memories, some good, some bad….

'Most of the guys remember when [Oregon City's] field was a mud pit and the lights weren't very good. They are very appreciative of the artificial turf.'

'I remember the mud. And I remember standing on one side of the field and you couldn't see the other side [because of the crown],' said Rick Schneider.

'It's been a great experience for me,' said Chappell. 'I've been at West Linn 24 years and it's great to reconnect with those guys that played for me - see what their families are like and meet their wives and kids. It's been a lot of fun….

'I'd love to do this every year. I think it's a great idea and it's a great fundraiser for a great cause….

'I think it's great for both communities.'

Tickets for the game are available online at 'www.battleforthebridge.com.' Tickets purchased in advance are $8, or they may be purchased at the game for $10.