Bell Game between Sacramento and McClatchy still has a ring to it

Published: Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3C

McClatchy High School athletic director Rob Feickert wasn't shy about adding an extra helping to his plate Friday at the midtown Old Spaghetti Factory.

Each year, captains, coaches and administrators from Sacramento High and McClatchy meet the day before the annual Bell Game to talk about the tradition, history and importance of the area's oldest football rivalry.

McClatchy (3-6, 3-3) plays at 1 p.m. today at Sacramento (7-2, 5-1) in the Metro Conference regular-season finale, the 78th game between the two schools that first played each other in 1937.

"The school that hosts the game picks up the tab," Feickert said Thursday. "So this year I won't hold back. I'll probably have an extra entree or two."

And he should. Feickert has a unique connection with the rivalry.

He played at Sac High in the early 1980s, and then coached football at McClatchy in two stints over eight years before stepping away in 2006.

"Back when I played at Sac, we all knew the kids at McClatchy because the schools are so close together," Feickert said. "You knew if you won that game you'd have the rest of your life to hold it over them."

McClatchy's Kevin "Kaycee" Clark is the guy who still has bragging rights over Feickert. Clark had three interceptions in helping the Lions beat Feickert's Dragons in 1981.

Clark, who went on to play for the Denver Broncos, took a nostalgic tour of his alma mater during a visit earlier in the week. The Colorado resident loved rekindling his big-game performance with Feickert.

But the Bell Game also has lost a bit of its chime.

There are no more crowds of 26,000 fans that packed Hughes Stadium for the game in 1947, when it was played on Thanksgiving Day and called the Turkey Game. That's reportedly the largest ever for a prep game in Sacramento.

The two schools are no longer football juggernauts. McClatchy hasn't been to a playoff game since 1996, although the Dragons have enjoyed a recent resurrection under coach Paul Doherty and his predecessor Doug Cosbie. A win today would match the Dragons' best record since 1993.

Even more critical was Sacramento becoming a charter school in 2003. The campus now draws students from beyond the Sacramento City Unified School District boundaries.

"That's changed the game significantly, although there are still some neighborhood kids at Sac," Feickert said. "We don't know each other as much."

Despite those changes, Sac High athletic director Justin Gatling says his school looks forward to the game every season. The Dragons have won the last three games, and Gatling says the perpetual Bell trophy is rolled out the week of the game to boost school spirit.

"It's a great tradition for our kids, our school and the city," Gatling said. "The captains' luncheon solidifies how important the rivalry is."

The game will return to Hughes Stadium next season when McClatchy hosts.

The last time the two teams played at the historic stadium, recently renovated, was in 2006, when a crowd of 5,500 gathered.

Sac also is open to playing at Hughes in future years.

"It would be great to get back there some day, though we have a great field," Gatling said. "It's just a matter if everything as far as costs can be worked out."

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