MONUMENT - Proximity increases hostility. When playing your little brother in pingpong, you want to beat him 21-0. Every time. You want your lawn to be more gloriously lush than your neighbor’s.
And when your school is 2.9 miles away from its archrival, you want to win and win big.
Friday’s Battle for Monument featured a football struggle between Palmer Ridge and Lewis-Palmer. It was, as has been usual in this rivalry in recent seasons, a rout.
Palmer Ridge’s Bears devoured Lewis-Palmer’s Rangers, 35-7. It was a dominating effort, but not quite as dominating as last season’s performance by the Rangers, who manhandled the Bears, 51-9.
Cory McLellan is a Palmer Ridge senior receiver and safety. He remembered, clearly, the pain of 2016 even as he stood among a throng of happy teammates and classmates.
“I mean, the whole town shuts down when we play them,” he said. “Everyone is here. To get embarrassed and blown out, it was heartbreaking, but it was also very motivating.”
As he talked, his teammates were hugging and shouting.
“I can’t explain it,” McLellan said. “It’s pretty surreal. To take the trophy home in my senior year, it’s awesome.”
The night was a rarity for area high school football. The lines for tickets were long and winding. The parking lots were filled, and so were the stands. Lewis-Palmer fans sat in the cramped visitor section at Don Breese Stadium, and those fans were sitting 20 yards from the entrance of Lewis-Palmer High School.
Lewis-Palmer (0-3) had no chance. Palmer Ridge (3-0) is known for a high-octane offense led by junior quarterback Ty Evans, but the Bears defense was the dominating force on Friday night. L-P quarterback Cole Recker often didn’t even get a chance to look downfield before he was engulfed in the arms of a gang of Bears.
Here’s where the surreal part arrives for McLellan: He knows virtually every player on the L-P roster. He went to grade school and junior high with the Rangers. He’s a close friend of L-P’s Recker and Jordan Pshigoda and Patrick Haggard. In this case, he knows the enemy.
“When you grow up with guys like that and then when there’s aggression during the game, it’s heartbreaking to see them show sides of them that you didn’t know,” he said. “It makes me mad.”
A year ago, Palmer Ridge coach Tom Pulford went home mad after the huge loss to L-P. And, remember, he drove into the driveway of a home with a Monument address.
“Everybody is going to give everything that they got in a game like this,” he said. “These kids grew up together, they see each other at the grocery store, and there’s a lot of pride in this game,” Pulford said.
Last season’s defeat?
“It took a long time to get over,” he said.
As Pulford talked, he was standing in the middle of a big crowd. It was an almost even mix of Palmer Ridge and Lewis-Palmer students, who were mingling peacefully. The Battle for Monument was over.
“It’s a friendly rivalry,” McLellan said.