LAKE STATION — River Forest defensive coordinator Jon Hall played football for the Griffith Panthers in the late 1990s.

He faced some fierce rivalries with coach Russ Radtke against Lowell, Andrean, Munster and Highland.

But he has a theory on another Region rivalry that belongs with the other great ones.

"This one has everything the others have, maybe more," Hall said of the Lake Station-River Forest rivalry, that was played at Edison on Friday night. "This is the most intense rivalry I've ever been apart of.

"Everyone on both teams knows everyone on the other team."

The schools are 2.6 miles apart.

The two heated neighbors have been playing since 1949. It once had nicknames like "The Hillbilly Army-Navy Game" or "The Hillbilly Super Bowl." But Hall laughs at those old monikers.

"We have more Hispanics than hillbillies now," Hall said with a laugh. "They need to come up with a new name for it."

Hall coached at Lake Station from 2002 to 2006. He changed colors in 2014 and moved to River Forest.

Both teams play for the Frank Chester Traveling Trophy, which the Ingots have owned the last two autumns.

Lake Station coach Jason Wolfe coached at River from 2010-14.

"It's been a rivalry forever," Wolfe said. "You have family members at both schools. You were born on one side or the other. That's what makes this so great."

If these teams are really good, or really bad, it never changes. While much of Indiana watches all the big schools, there is something special here in these two communities.

In 1990, the Eagles beat the Ingots 12-0 in the regular season. Then, River returned the favor 32-6 in the sectional and went on to the Class 2A state championship game.

Then, in 2008, the Ingots only win of the regular season was against their rivals, 14-12. The two teams combined for one win in the regular season then drew each other in the sectional opener. Lake Station won 12-6 in front of a packed house on a freezing, raining night.

It doesn't matter who is doing what. This game is always big.

The celebration was bigger than some I've seen in Indianapolis in late November.

Former Eagles coach Mike Hepp, God rest is soul, was told by the superintendent when he got the job only one game mattered — River Forest. Going 1-8 and beating your rivals is job security in this one.

Too bad the Bears don't have such a philosophy against Green Bay.

Three former Lake Station players competed for the Ingots after they transferred to their rival.

"It's gritty," said James Dabney, who changed teams this year, as a senior. "It's like a Super Bowl experience. I hated it the last two years when they beat us. Now, I'm with these guys.

Beyond the traveling trophy, which a Lake Station player claimed an Ingot broke a few years ago when the Eagles won, the visiting team in this rivalry gets an escort by fire trucks, police cars and guys on Harley Davidsons.

"The rivalry is classic," Lake Station's Dorian Hale said before the game. "They've had it the last two years but that will end tonight. We're going to shove it down their throats."

"They've been looking down on us the last few years," Eagle Joncarlos Villasenor said. "This week has been tense-full. I see three River Forest guys every day and we just stare at each other. We know what's going down."

River Forest won tonight's game 14-8, the Ingots third straight in the series.

The Eagles (1-6, 0-5 Greater South Shore Conference) scored first when Rickie Santos scored from 1-yard out with 8 minutes, 32 seconds left in the second quarter and he then ran it in for the two.

The Ingots (3-4, 2-3) got a second-half score from Josiah Zambrana on a 3-yard run making it 8-6 at 11:52 of the fourth quarter. He later scored from the 1 and hit Anthony Rodriguez for two to finish the score.

The Eagles had a great effort with only 24 players in uniform. The Ingots kept it rolling. Again.

"There is a deep passion in this game," River Forest's Aleazar Camarillo said. "We get along with each other the rest of the year. But not this week."

Teammate Kyle Moore agreed.

"This game makes me speechless," he said Thursday night. "They've been talking a lot all week. I want my game to speak for me."

There are rivalries in the Region and Indiana with better and bigger teams, the kind of games that end up on the front page of newspapers all over. But this rivalry has something most places have.

The outcome affects a greater percentage of the communities. The people here really care.

And coach Hall, whose has worn the colors of both teams, now raises his record in this series to 7-3.

This column solely represents the writer’s opinion. Reach him at


Steve has won awards during two different stints at The Times. In addition to being the Prep Beat columnist, he covers football, boys basketball and boys track. He is a long-suffering Cubs fan.