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A Look Back at 135 Years of Temple-Belton Football Rivalry

Bill Smotrilla | Photo by Joe Olivares Photography
Bill Smotrilla | Photo by Joe Olivares Photography

Now in the second year of its most recent revival, the Temple-Belton football rivalry is a legend that dates all the way back to the 1880’s.

In 1881, Belton had an agreement with the Santa Fe Railroad Company to have their new rail line built right through the town. Instead, the new line was placed several miles away from the town in an area that came to be known as Temple, TX, according to a 2007 article in the Temple Daily Telegram.

This didn’t go over too well with Belton, who then sued the railroad. The railroad lost the legal battle, but by the time it was all said and done, Belton had long been eclipsed in population by its new neighbor, Temple.

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Shortly after the turn of the century, the two towns began to form their own high school football programs. Both teams’ first official game was against each other in the first ever Tempe-Belton rivalry matchup in 1907. Temple won that game 11-5.

Several years later, Temple-Belton had become a premiere high school rivalry in the state of Texas. It was enough for the game to be moved to a neutral site in 1915, the Bell County Fair Grounds.

Temple managed to remain undefeated in the rivalry game until 1920. Belton snagged its first victory in a 7-0 thriller that kept the Wildcats out of the playoffs.

Motivated by the loss to the Tigers, the 1921 Wildcats went on to dominate their regular season opponents by a combined season score of 388-13 (including a 14-0 victory over Belton). That 1921 game between the Tigers and Wildcats is said to be the first ever artificially lighted football game played in the state of Texas.

The Tigers managed to get a couple more wins in the 20’s before the disparity in the sizes of the towns proved too much to overcome. Temple was much bigger than Belton at this point, and the Tigers football program was struggling to field a team that could compete.

The games had also grown increasingly dangerous, as post-game brawls in the parking lot became more and more common. After two especially violent endings in 1933 and 1934, a local judge called off the rivalry, according to another Temple Daily Telegram article from 2002.

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The two teams would not see each other again for 62 years.

Thanks to a few different changes in divisions since the resurrection in 1996, the rivalry has been on and off for the last 20 years.

Finally, in 2016, the two teams met voluntarily for the first time since the judge declared the rivalry over in 1934.

Per MaxPreps.com, Temple was 7-3 in the ten matchups leading up to the most recent reunion of the Tigers and Wildcats. After last year, Temple has increased their winning streak to four straight games.

The next installment in this historic series will kick-off at 7:30 p.m. on September 1st, 2017 at Wildcat Stadium. Come out to support your favorite team and town and be a part of a rivalry 135 years in the making!


KRock 1017 will air Temple Wildcat Football every Friday night, beginning with the September 1 Temple-Belton rivalry game. Stay tuned!

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