NEWS - The Old Oaken Bucket

'Bucket' football rivalry has checkered past

4 minute read

October 11, 2011

The Hinsdale Central-Downers Grove North football rivalry for the Old Oaken Bucket isn’t what it used to be, and that’s a good thing.

I learned a big lesson 40 years ago when I fanned the flames of a then-bitter rivalry by asking a Hinsdale Central player if both sides were guilty of smack-talking, rib-kicking, leg-twisting and helmet-yanking in pileups.

He truthfully answered yes, yes, yes and yes, adding. “There always seems to be cheap shots when we play them.”

I ran that quote in The Doings, thus providing the Trojans with excellent bulletin-board material for the 1971 contest at Downers North. It taught me to never put high-school players on the hot seat again.

I tried to convince myself that I merely was trying to stir up interest in the communities, but I was horrified when the Trojans came charging out of their locker room with CHEAP SHOTS scrawled on tape across the front of their helmets.

I asked myself what I had done, then scolded myself like a puppy: “Bad boy, Joe! Bad boy!”

The Downers North athletic director confronted me at halftime with a brief, pointed diatribe.

AD: “How did you sneak past our security?”

Me: “Sneak past? I didn’t sneak past anyone. I paid my $2 at the gate and walked in.”

AD: “Well, we don’t teach hatred around here.”

Me: “I never said you did. Do you?”

The athletic director didn’t answer, but he had the last laugh when the Trojans won 15-14 on a time-expiring field goal that ended their 20-game Old Oaken Bucket losing streak to the Red Devils.

Downers North not only bronzed the kicker’s shoe, but the student body booed Hinsdale AD Harvey Dickinson and coach Gene Strode when they returned the Bucket at a pep rally the following Monday.

The Trojans retained the trophy the next year, too — winning 20-15 — but when Hinsdale won 20-0 in 1973, Dickinson and Strode had to fetch the Bucket themselves.

“We were told to find a maintenance man and have him open the trophy case, so that’s what we did,” a Hinsdale administrator said.

That was then. This is now. The schools mostly have been on their best Old Oaken Bucket behaviors since.

The rivalry resumes in Hinsdale, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, with the Red Devils holding a 42-31-3 Bucket lead. They’ve won the last four games by a combined 133-58 score, including a 37-33 thriller last season.

A similar thriller is possible, with Central (5-2 overall, 2-2 WSC Silver) coming off last week’s 34-29 win at Oak Park-River Forest — on a 31-yard, Brian Owens-to-Brad Anlauf touchdown pass with less than three minutes left — while Downers North (2-5, 1-3) was winning 20-7 at Proviso West, aided by 225 combined rushing yards from Anthony Rada and Brandon Salter.

Little big man

Hinsdale South (4-3, 2-1 WSC Gold) has its hands full with unbeaten host Downers Grove South Friday night, as the Mustangs feature all-state candidate Josh Williams. The 5-foot-9, 175-pound back has two regular-season games left to gain over 2,000 rushing yards and top 25 touchdowns.

“We’ve had some good tailbacks that we featured in our offense, but what Josh has been able to do is pretty extraordinary,” Downers South coach John Belskis told the Chicago Tribune. “He’s the same speed in every direction. He’s 4.5 seconds this way, 4.5 that way and 4.5 this way, and he does all the intangibles as well as he runs. There’s a college coach out there who’s going to get a great one and doesn’t even know it.”

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