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In coin-toss of a Montague-Whitehall matchup, ceremonial event on bridge shelved again

‘Battle for the Bell’ rivalry resumes this Friday at Whitehall in game with league-title implications.

In this file photo, Montague and Whitehall football teams meet on the causeway bridge between their communities for a ceremonial coin toss Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018.

You might as well flip a coin to determine the winner in Friday’s Montague vs. Whitehall “Battle for the Bell” football showdown.

On that topic, the ceremonial coin toss on the causeway bridge separating the two White Lake communities will remain on the shelf for at least another year. The school districts could not come to an agreement and jointly decided to skip the recently revived coin-toss tradition.

The ceremonial coin toss on the Dowling Street bridge was an annual event through the early-1980s. It was shelved until 2016, but soggy weather wiped it out in 2019 and COVID-19 forced its cancellation in 2020.

In recent years, both schools’ football players and coaches, cheerleaders and bands, as well as several community members, were on hand for the spectacle.

Those parties will have to wait until Friday’s 7 p.m. showdown at Whitehall.

“We were in conversation. We still wanted to do it and Whitehall didn’t feel as strongly about it, so we didn’t come up with an agreement so we just said we’re not going to have it this year,” Montague athletic director Jay Mulder told CatchMark SportsNet.

“I guess I’m a little bit disappointed, you know. I thought it was a pretty neat thing that we started again, but I sort of understand it.”

Whitehall superintendent Jerry McDowell noted that the ceremonial coin toss was not actually scheduled this year. To his knowledge, conversations began more recently and not a lot of details were in place.

McDowell pointed out that Whitehall does not have school today, so that likely eliminated Sunday night as an option for the coin toss. In the past, the coin flip also has taken place on a Thursday night, but McDowell said the junior varsity game is happening then and he believes Whitehall’s coaching staff would like to conduct a run-through practice and attend the JV game in support of the program.

“Like most schools, there is a lot going on with athletics and academics this week,” McDowell wrote in an email to CatchMark SportsNet. “I am thinking (but I do not know for sure) that the football squad was hoping to focus on the practices and the preparation leading up to the game while keeping up on their academic priorities and family time. 

“My guess is the coin toss will occur just like any week and the teams will have the choice to kick, receive or defer just a few moments before the game. I am personally looking forward to a great week and an awesome football game filled with sportsmanship and elite high school competition.”

The Montague-Whitehall football rivalry officially began in 1921. The Wildcats lead the all-time series, 64-48-2, including a dramatic 34-31 double-overtime victory over the Vikings last season.

Montague has kept “The Bell,” which stays with the winning team, for six straight years.

Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

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