Originally Published: October 2, 2015 9:48 p.m.
CHINO VALLEY - Rivalries are typically born, not made. But in the case of the Chino Valley and Camp Verde football teams, there's an exception: It was never official.
As of tonight however, when the Division V Cowboys and Cougars clash for the umpteenth time in their respective program's histories, it will be official.
Enter the "Bronze Boot."
"We're up here in cowboy country, so why not get a bronze boot," said Chino Valley head coach Wade Krug, who pointed toward "tradition" as to the reason why he came up with the idea.
"Coming in here, I came from a background where in high school, we had rivals. In college, we had rivals. My previous coaching jobs, we had that big rivalry game," Krug said. "It didn't matter the records. The game meant more than anything else."
Krug said it was one of the first things he and Chino Valley athletic director Pete Jelovic talked about during his interview two years ago before taking the job ahead of the 2014 season. Jelovic jumped at the idea.
"Talking with coaches in the area, Bradshaw Mountain and Prescott, they are cross-town rivals. Mingus gets thrown in, too. But Camp Verde and us, we are kind of left out there in the wind," Krug said.
So Krug spoke with Steve Darby, now a third-year head coach at Camp Verde with a coaching history in the Verde Valley that includes working under longtime Camp Verde head coach Luke Steege, and longtime Mingus Union head coach Bob Young.
It didn't take much convincing from Krug to get him on board, Darby said.
"He felt [it was a good thing] to start a tradition with the programs," Darby said. "The one school we would always play is Chino Valley. Same size, similar location. This is one of those things to build a sense of tradition and, they've decided we're their rivalry."
Thus, the "Bronze Boot" was born. With the idea in place, all the two teams needed was one thing: an actual boot. Chino Valley senior tailback Jerad Chavez was kind enough to donate one, Krug said. Size 9 ½.
"One day I asked the kids for it and Jerad said, 'Here you go coach.' It was in the back of his truck," Krug said with a laugh.
Camp Verde senior free safety Dakota Brueland said having a traveling trophy for "bragging rights" is a great idea, and that it will "bring so much more to the games."
"It adds a whole new level. Both teams could be that first [team to win it]. And both teams could definitely do it," Brueland said. "I think we both have a lot of talent and it's going to take a lot of hard work by both teams to come away with a win. It's going to be an exciting game."
Chino Valley senior offensive and defensive lineman Eduardo Sotelo agreed. "This game means a lot to me and the rest of the team. It's our first rivalry game ever. We want that bronze boot to come home with us," Sotelo said. "We are going to go there and give it all we have and playing a quarter at a time."
Camp Verde currently stands at 1-4 this season, recently losing 37-6 on the road at Monument Valley in a game that saw eight Cowboy turnovers.
"It's hard to win a game when you give the ball away that much," said Darby, whose team has lost three games by one touchdown this season. "We are looking to get back on winning track."
As for Chino Valley, the Cougars are 2-3 and are riding a two-game winning streak after snapping a 13-game skid.
Although both programs have struggled in recent seasons, records will go out the door tonight. All that matters now is where the coaches plan to display the trophy.
"I'm just going to put it in my office. If we do win, I want it in my office," Darby said. "I don't trust it with my players."
Krug said when his squad wins, the Bronze Boot will go in the front office at Chino Valley.
"[We want it] where everyone can see it. Up in pride," Krug said. "[And] every time Camp Verde comes into town, [whether it's] basketball, baseball, or whatever, we'll put it on display for them to see it."
To the victor go the spoils.
Follow Brian M. Bergner Jr. on Twitter at @SportsWriter52 or reach him by phone at (928) 445-3333, ext. 1106, or (928) 899-6946.