HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (KTHV) - Things that were popular in 1999: Boy bands, the X-Files and Lake Hamilton playing Lakeside in high school football.
They’re the type of games that are remembered long after they've been played.
“I caught my touchdown pass in that corner right over there my senior year. It was a big deal for me, and I still remember. In fact, me and some of my classmates we get together, and we'll reenact that play,” said Tommy Gilleran, the head football coach for Lake Hamilton High School.
Lake Hamilton and Lakeside are separated by only 15 miles and they've played every year since 1968 except for two in the 1970's. Oh, and of course for the nearly two-decade span between 1999 and this season. Steve Anderson, the superintendent for Lake Hamilton, has seen the rivalry from both sides.
“It was unusual going from a Lake Hamilton football coach to a Lakeside administrator. And now I've come back to being a wolf,” said Anderson. “I was told when I came here, ‘You've only got to win one game here to get your contract renewed.’ And I laughed. And she said, ‘Oh, you think I'm joking. You've got to beat Lakeside.’”
And beat Lakeside they did. For 12 consecutive years, the Wolves bested the Rams. It was a part of the reason why the two teams stopped.
“Our football program had really peaked and Lakeside’s football program at that time was struggling. They worked hard but they were really struggling in their program,” said Anderson.
And then there were off the field issues, something administrators are still hesitant to discuss. “It got to the point where it was being violent, and kids were being foolish,” said Gilleran.
That’s why it took Anderson nearly a decade to be able to convince to school boards to renew the rivalry. “There was a lot of interest but there was a question of would this bring out the worse in our kids?” he added. After lengthy talks and meetings, the decision was made to renew and on Aug. 31, 2018.
About 10-thousand people came out to see the Wolves play the Rams for the first time this century. “It was an amazing experience to see all these people and play in this game,” said Jared McBride, the head football coach for Lakeside High School.
The Wolves won the game, but it's the community is the real winner as both schools hope to continue the annual rivalry game past the currently scheduled 2019 season.
“These kids, they go to church with each other on Sunday, they date each other on Saturday, but one week out of the year, the Wolves and the Rams are arch enemies,” said Anderson.