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West Allis - Cheers rose and rocked the darkened residential streets an entire three blocks away from where Central and Nathan Hale high schools went helmet to helmet in the last game of a football rivalry that started 76 years ago.

Next season, Central will be in the Woodland Conference, leaving Hale still in the Greater Metro Conference. The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association realignment that split them up is being challenged in court but with little hope of success.

Friday night, however, students, children, parents and grandparents poured into the stands in voluminous numbers. Some regularly attend the games. Some had children on the teams. To others, the rivalry was a fun Friday night out. Their common thread - all supported a cross-town rivalry that defined West Allis.

50-year alums

Among them was a section of the Central class of 1966 in town to celebrate its 50-year reunion.

Lloyd Solberg was a defensive linebacker for the Bulldogs as well as class valedictorian. He said of the rivalry's end, "It's disappointing, we just heard tonight."

Beating Hale was the focus of the season.

"We had a terrible team," Solberg said. "The only game we won that year was when we beat Hale," he said of 1965. Not only that, but the victory was a thumping 27 to 7. "We finally got motivated," he joked.

His wife, Jayne, also a 1966 Central grad, said, "I'm very sad. Football has been a tradition in our family."

Her sister Bonnie Knapp, class of 1969, chimed in that Central hasn't hit the football heights since their father played on the team.

"He was 95 pounds, and they couldn't see him," she said of Central's big bruising opponents.

Hale saddened

Nathan Hale parent Rosa Gallardo said of this being the last game of the rivalry: "It's sad because a lot of kids look forward to this game."

She knows because her son, Raphael who graduated in June, played for Hale.

"He couldn't wait for the game," she said, "He would go around saying, 'We're going to defeat them.'"

Her family goes to all the games, she said. Husband Rommel Gallardo said he normally works late and even has to get off early to come.

Like the Central alums, Rosa didn't like Central moving out of the Metro Conference.

"It's taking a tradition away," she said.

That seemed to be the general sentiment in the stands on both sides of the field.

WIAA decision

The WIAA made the move in hopes of making Central more competitive. Woodland teams are more like Central in terms of economics and sports participation. Unlike many teams in the Metro Conference, athletes in the Woodland Conference don't generally have the benefit of private club athletic training where costs can range up to $6,000 a year. Similarly, Woodland schools don't generally have full-time athletic trainers, as some Metro Conference schools do.

Even so, Greg Zimmerman, father of a Hale sophomore, said, "I'm tired of seeing both teams finish at the bottom, but to dissolve the rivalry, that's sad."

The kids grew up playing each other from recreation department teams on up, he said.

In the  jousts between the city's two high schools, Central has emerged the winner 40 times, Hale 31 times and the teams have tied five times. School district officials tried hard to get Hale into the Woodland Conference, too, but were turned away. Officials said they think the reason was that Hale was too big of a school with high sports participation.

Hale senior Rachel Bass acknowledged, "I think it'll help their record," but she too will miss the competition.

"Central's always been our rival," echoed Hale sophomore Victoria Williams  Hale junior Azalia Beeman, said flatly, "It's weird for us."

"The intra-city rivalry has been huge," said Randy Abbrederis, a 1984 graduate who played offensive half back and safety.

"I'm saddened," he said.

Losses OK?

Angie Sweet, a Central 1996 alum who comes to a lot of the football games with her family, said she doesn't mind if Central wins or loses.

"It's a fun family Friday night," she said.

By contrast, Katie Colbert cares very much who wins because she has two sons playing for Central. One of them is Breshawn, a senior, who caught a 19-year touchdown pass in the second quarter in that final game. The other son is Brent, a sophomore running back.

Both have been eagerly looking forward to the game with Hale.

"Oh my God, they've been on pins and needs. This is it, this is the game. The kids are saying, 'We want to win, we want to win," Colbert said.

Despite leaping headlong into the rivalry, the brothers are looking forward to joining the Woodland Conference where they won't have to go up against the Goliaths of the Greater Metro, she said.

Commemorative shirts

To commemorate the last game, both Central and Hale made up identical T-shirts featuring both their mascots on the front and 1940 - 2016 "The end of an era" on the back. Central's shirts were maroon, Hale's were black.

Hale, that had printed many more shirts than Central, was still nearly sold out in the first quarter at the table beside the stands. Volunteers at Central's table were taking T-shirt orders.

The final game of the rivalry for at least a very long time ended with Central scoring a 27 to 14 victory.

There is a possibility that the WIAA will put the two into the same conference when it does its regular review in five years. But for the foreseeable future, they won't play each other even for a nonconference game.

However, there is a possibility of a scrimmage before football season, said West Allis-West Milwaukee School Board member Heather Justham. Efforts are under way to hold a scrimmage and a big picnic as a send off for each team heading into their respective seasons, she said.

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