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The Battle for the Bridge

Saturday's full-contact football game between OC and WL alumni is really a battle against cystic fibrosis
by: john Lariviere Surrounded by the Oregon City High School alumni football team, honorary West Linn High School alumni captain Sophia Giammonco, 4, holds the 2011 Battle of the Bridge trophy won by the Pioneers after defeating her Lions 23-14.  The game was a fundraiser supporting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation; Sophia has been diagnosed with the disease.

The event was nearly a century in the making.

West Linn and Oregon City - one of the most longstanding rivalries in prep football - have for years drawn large crowds of boisterous fans from both sides of the river. Saturday night that rivalry was put to good use as it drew thousands of people to a full-contact charity football game for cystic fibrosis.

The teams consisted of alumni from both West Linn High School and Oregon City High School classes '78 to 2011, who dawned their respective colors before charging onto WLHS's football field. The event raised $17,000, which went to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's Oregon chapter to aid research on the rare genetic disorder.

'My goddaughter, Sophia, has cystic fibrosis. Her father, Ian, and I came up with an idea for a charity football game to raise money for the CF Foundation,' said Trent Tribou, co-organizer of the event.

Cystic fibrosis - or CF - is a rare genetic disorder that affects the lungs causing them to produce excess mucus. Treatment usually consists of ventilation and antibiotics; however, since there is no cure, the disorder is life-threatening.

While Oregon City won 23-14, with so many funds raised the event was a win for spectators and the CF Foundation.

A big event

'For a CF fundraiser, this is pretty big because not a lot of people know what CF is, and everyone wants to see Oregon City and West Linn play,' said Adrienne Schweizer, a 2010 Oregon City graduate with CF.

Pretty big?

Attendance reached more than 2,400, with 800 presale tickets sold - plus more than 1,000 tickets sold at the door. Both bleachers were full of people wearing combinations of red and black and green and gold.

'There's more people here tonight than on a Friday night game,' said Linda MacClanathan, whose husband, Todd MacClanathan, and son were both playing for the West Linn side.

Todd MacClanathan and his son, Mike MacClanathan, both went to WLHS and played for the football team. They both even had the same jersey number, so, when they heard about this alumni game, it was a no-brainer for both of them to sign up.

'This was a once in a lifetime thing for them and it's very cool to see them both on the field,' MacClanathan said.

For a good cause

Funds raised from ticket, T-shirt and concession sales all went to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Oregon Chapter. There was also a raffle for a money pot, which was split down the middle - half going to the winner and the other half going to the CF Foundation.

'They're obviously raising a lot of money, and it's for a good cause,' MacClanathan said.

Volunteers came out in droves for support. The NW Contexture Congregation, a neighborhood church, contributed multiple volunteers to help man the grill and sell hamburgers. Heather Carroll, a member of the church, said she supports the school and the community.

'If someone calls, we want to help out any way we can,' Carroll said.

The event also had many business sponsors, including Lil' Cooperstown and Alumni Athletics USA, who donated all of the equipment for the players besides the West Linn jerseys.

'They drove all the gear up from California, so this is all theirs, but coach Chappell let us wear the jerseys,' Tribou said.

Injuries kept to a minimum

With a bunch of old guys playing full contact football, you'd expect the scene at the end of M*A*S*H, with players dropping off like flies from a broken this or sprained that. However, with only six minor injuries - including sprained ankles, a popped shoulder and one pulled Achilles tendon - the on-duty ambulance wasn't even called.

'An injury you can get in football always gets riskier with age,' said Sean Farrell, the athletic trainer for West Linn. 'In a game like this, you're taking young guys who are just out of high school and pitting them against guys who haven't played for many years.'

About 45 guys took that risk for West Linn, as did 55 for Oregon City. Call them heroes or crazy, they battled for bragging rights and a cure to a serious disorder.

Oregon City won 23-14, after West Linn threw up a Hail Mary pass in the final seconds of the game, which the receiver caught but then stepped out of bounds.

That Hail Mary pass, though inconsequential to the game, was a reminder of the spirit of this event. Tribou saw this event as the beginning of an excellent addition to an already century-old tradition.

'We all had a good time, we played hard, there were a few injuries, but everyone wants to come back and I think it'll be bigger next year,' he said.