A history of the Dons-Saints “Holy Bowl” rivalry
November 8, 2011
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When the words “Saint Augustine” and “Cathedral Catholic” are mentioned in the same sentence, you can bet the topic has something to do with rivalry.
Since 1966, the Saints and the Dons have assembled once a year to compete in the highly anticipated Holy Bowl, formerly called the Charity Bowl, and since then, high school football fans have gathered together in the cool fall air repping their school colors and praying for a year’s worth of bragging rights.
In 1966, the University of San Diego High School (Uni.) was a small, all-boys school with a growing but unnoticed football program. Saint Augustine’s football team, however, was a dominating program in a higher division than Uni., despite their similar status as a small, all-boys high school.
Saints’ high school initially put off Uni.’s requests to play in a football game, but on September 24th 1966, the two finally met and the famed rivalry began.
In an unpredicted upset, the Dons came out on top that first meeting with a 30-7 win, giving the Saints a reason to come back the next year and prove themselves. Despite the shock of their defeat, the Saints pushed themselves and won the game the next year, 19-13.
From 1967 to 1974, the Dons suffered from a kind of winning drought and, losing seven times, won only once against Saint Augustine. The rivalry between the Saints and the Dons had not actually been voiced yet, but once a year the teams met on the field and battled it out. As attendance at these games began to increase, some school administrators got an idea.
Because of the substantial increase in attendance, the idea arose in 1974 that the Uni. vs. Saints game should be an event that profited the schools. So, eight years after the historic upset in 1966, the game was officially dubbed the Charity Bowl and would bring in funds for the Catholic high schools in San Diego County.
In 1974, Uni. went all out and attracted over 18,000 people who sat shoulder to shoulder in the San Diego State stadium. Even the famed comedian Bob Hope was in attendance, and he put on a half-time show for the enthusiastic fans.
That first Charity Bowl ended with a devastating loss for the Dons, but they would be back the next year with a win. To redeem themselves from their losing streak up to 1974, from 1975-1987, they came out with twelve wins and only one loss.
From 1988 to 2000, the Dons won 8 out of 13 times, with 2 shutouts. The Saints were falling behind with only 4 wins but the spirit of the game and the hope of victory pushed them forward. As of the year 2000, the record was 25:11, in favor of the Dons.
Between 2001 and today, the Saints would take 6 games and the Dons would take 5, making the final record as of tonight, 30 wins for the Dons and 17 wins for the Saints.
The Saints are currently undefeated and ranked 35th in California. They are looking to advance their 17 wins to 18 in the annual Holy Bowl.
The Dons are ranked 30th in California and are heading into the Holy Bowl with a record of 8-1. They are doing everything possible to hold their place in the Holy Bowl record books and have been looking forward to and preparing for this game for months.
Tonight, hundreds of people sit on both sides of the Cathedral Catholic football field. The Holy Bowl has been anticipated for months and both teams are fired up to win. Energized cheerleaders, chatting parents, and laughing students all have one team in the back of their minds, and one word to associate them with for the next year: winners.
As people pass around blankets, they keep their eyes on the red and gold mixing with the purple and gold on the field. The area is filled with the buzz of laughter, talk, and the spelling of “GO” in the background and at pivotal moments the crowd falls silent until one team erupts with victory.
The same scene occurred 45 years ago when the rivalry between the Saints and the Dons was born. And for 45 years, the competition has carried on and been the source of many an exciting football story.
Even though fans will argue that they only care about the score, the Holy Bowl has done much more than spark a rivalry. Communities have been united with a common goal, a common faith and school pride that has withstood generations.
The Holy Bowl night is finally here and, as fans pile into the stadium, the Dons are ready to dominate. And it looks as if nothing can stop their determined stride, not even the strength of a band of saints.