Iowa's 25 greatest prep football rivalries, from cowbells to crosstown battles
Editor's note: Statistics and records were accurate and updated as of the original publication date in 2018.
The fans have spoken. And they want more cowbell.
Traveling trophies, local lore and annual games go into making great Iowa high school football rivalries.
There are cowbell trophies for several of the best 25 rivalries compiled by the Des Moines Register. Perry and Greene County (Jefferson) have one, and Anamosa and Monticello fight over another.
We asked readers to help us make our selections. You responded.
From gate-storming crowds to small town Friday night lights, here they are:
West Des Moines Valley vs. West Des Moines Dowling Catholic
Why it matters: The West Des Moines neighbors and rivals have squared off in some of the state's best-attended regular season and playoff games, frequently drawing crowds of up to 10,000 fans. Dowling leads the series 33-20, with Valley winning the 2019 regular season matchup 29-22. Dowling has won 12 playoff meetings, Valley 10. The annual rivalry started in 1968. Since the state playoffs began in 1972, Dowling has won nine championships, including the last six, and Valley has five titles.
Iowa City High vs. Iowa City West
Why it matters: The Battle for the Boot relates to competition over an old football shoe converted into a trophy. The teams have combined to win seven state football titles. City High leads the series 34-17.
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Des Moines East vs. Des Moines North
Why it matters: The state's longest continuous rivalry is nearing 120 games, with East winning the 2019 matchup 35-22. It was the 117th meeting between the Des Moines schools. East leads the series 81-28-8. The schools started playing in 1903. It's a rivalry that has seen generations of family members participate, at times with sons who played for the opposing side of their parents.
Albia vs. Centerville
Why it matters: The Battle of Highway 5, the road that connects the towns, has been played nearly every season for more than a century. Centerville, which leads the series 70-31-8. The 1919 scheduled game was called, either due to the influenza epidemic or a snowstorm, or both reasons, Albia journalist Dave Paxton wrote.
Grundy Center vs. Gladbrook-Reinbeck
Why it matters: The schools concluded a rivalry that lingered 99 years in 2017. Gladbrook-Reinbeck held a 47-42-9 advantage in the Battle for the Bell. The series ended when Gladbrook-Reinbeck switched from 11-player to 8-player football in 2018.
Central Lyon vs. West Lyon
Why it matters: What do you get when the Lyon County Cattlemen's Association starts a rivalry game between two state powers? The Beef Bowl. West Lyon (Inwood) beat Central Lyon/George-Little Rock 35-0 on Aug. 30, 2019. That outcome gives West Lyon an 8-6 lead in the series, which started in 2006. West Lyon has claimed the last four meetings and the traveling trophy, which is sponsored by the beef producers.
Ames vs. Marshalltown
Why it matters: The teams first met in 1901, making it one of the state's oldest rivalries in terms of first games. Ames holds a 66-35-4 lead, with the 1906 results missing.
Bettendorf vs. Davenport Assumption
Why it matters: This rivalry between Quad City teams ended, at least for now, when the schedules didn't work out. Assumption did rekindle a different rivalry in 2018, when it played Rock Island (Illinois) Alleman for the first time since 2011.
Perry vs. Greene County (Jefferson)
Why it matters: The programs have competed since Oct. 15, 1898. Thirty years later, a traveling trophy was added to the annual rivalry. Jefferson High School eventually became Greene County (Jefferson), but that hasn't ended the tradition. While not continuous, it dates as the oldest rivalry in Iowa high school football. Greene Country won 54-0 in 2019 and leads the series 58-29-2.
Oskaloosa vs. Ottumwa
Why it matters: Ottumwa leads one of Iowa's oldest rivalries 52-41-3. They first met in 1907, when Oskaloosa won 5-0. Although they discontinued their annual football game due to scheduling changes, they last played in a non-district contest in 2015, when Ottumwa won, 20-0.
Sioux City Heelan vs. West Des Moines Dowling Catholic
Why it matters: The teams played 48 times, with each one winning 24. The annual game was known in its heyday as a brutal, hard-hitting contest between two of Iowa's largest Catholic schools.
Sioux City Heelan vs. Sioux City East
Why it matters: Heelan and East both have strong football traditions, so it's easy to see why they have made great rivals. Heelan owns a 51-29-2 lead in the series, with East winning the 2019 rivalry game, 20-13.
Sigourney-Keota vs. Pekin (Packwood)
Why it matters: Sigourney-Keota, which was previously Sigourney, leads the series 16-12. Seven state championship teams have been produced by Pekin, Sigourney and Sigourney-Keota. Sigourney-Keota won the 2019 meeting, 34-14.
Pleasant Valley vs. Bettendorf
Why it matters: The roots of the rivalry are in the Mississippi Athletic Conference. The neighbors have combined to win eight state championships. They last played Aug. 30, 2019, when Bettendorf won 20-6.
Waterloo East vs. Waterloo West
Why it matters: The programs have met for 107 consecutive seasons since the rivalry began in 1912. A helmet with both schools represented goes to the winner. Crowds can average 4,000 to 5,000 fans. West won 26-19 on Aug. 30, 2019.
Southeast Polk vs. Ankeny
Why it matters: This rivalry has continued its intensity in district football. Both schools were athletic powerhouses when they were members of the Central Iowa Conference. Ankeny won the 2019 meeting, 24-14.
Oelwein vs. Independence
Why it matters: The teams first met Oct. 27, 1906. Independence won the 2019 rivalry game but Oelwein leads the series 55-19-4. The rivalry is so old that the traveling trophy has been remade over the years. It's known as the Battle of 150, named for the road that links the towns.
Anamosa vs. Monticello
Why it matters: A cowbell is awarded to the winner in a rivalry that began in 1920. Monticello leads the series 56-37-5. Anamosa won the 2019 meeting, 21-13.
Lawton-Bronson vs. Woodbury Central
Why it matters: Like many other rivalries on this list, proximity helps make a good rivalry. These Woodbury County schools compete in a great many sports. Woodbury Central won the 2019 meeting, 24-6.
Urbandale vs. Johnston
Why it matters: Johnston's growth helped create this school district border battle. Before the Dragons joined the Central Iowa Metropolitan League, Urbandale was a much bigger school. The rivalry extends to all high school sports. Johnston in 2019, 27-6.
West Des Moines Valley vs. Waukee
Why it matters: Like the Johnston-Urbandale rivalry, when city growth helped manufacture sports competition, Waukee grew into a big-class school with a ready-made Class 4A neighbor. Valley leads the series 12-3, including a 2014 playoff meeting. The Tigers won the latest meeting, 26-10, in 2019.
Cedar Rapids Washington vs. Cedar Rapids Jefferson
Why it matters: Cedar Rapids' Kingston Stadium has staged many a game between the rivals. Jefferson broke more than a decade-long losing streak to Washington with a 24-7 win in 2019.
Ankeny vs. Ankeny Centennial
Why it matters: Ankeny Centennial became a new high school when it split from Ankeny High in 2013. Centennial has won six of seven meetings, including a 17-14 win to in the 2019 season opener.
Harlan vs. Denison-Schleswig
Why it matters: The name's changed over the years for Denison-Schleswig, but the series has continued. The program played Harlan in 1896 as Denison Normal School. That became Denison High and eventually Denison-Schleswig. Since 1898, Harlan leads the series 56-35-3. The trophy is known as the Pork Bowl.
Dubuque Hempstead vs. Dubuque Senior
Why it matters: These two city rivals are two of the biggest schools in eastern Iowa and compete in every sport. Senior won the 2019 meeting, 36-28.