A bell said to have been removed from the USS Jeb Stuart has become the icon of a 52-year rivalry that has pitted two Falls Church area high schools against one another on the gridiron, fighting to possess it. This year’s “Bell Game,” held last Friday at J.E.B. Stuart High School, had the Falls Church High School Jaguars eager to reclaim the trophy and the Raiders, who held the bell the previous two years, hungry for a three-peat. But at the end of the night, the 49-20 score favored the Jaguars, bringing their victory total to 20 in the history of the game.
This rivalry dates back to the 1960s, when a former Falls Church High principal transferred to an administrate post at J.E.B. Stuart and wanted to foster a friendly rivalry between the schools. Thus each school would compete in the final game of every regular season for the coveted bell.
Both teams came into the game with a 2-7 season record; the game had no playoff implications, but that fact didn’t diminish the importance of the game.
Sophmore Kevin Morgan began the scoring for both teams, as he ran it in from 23 yards out to put the Raiders up 7-0. The Jaguars tied up the score later in the quarter on an eight-yard pass from junior Adam Daly to junior first team All-District receiver Jordan Coneys.
The teams went into the second quarter tied at 7. Stuart began the scoring in the second quarter as well, as senior running back Tristian Jordan gave the Raiders a 14-7 lead on a one-yard touchdown run. But the Jaguars responded soon on its own one-yard run, by junior running back Dieon Dupont, to tie the score up at 14.
The second half opened at 14-14, but would not reflect the tit-for-tat scoring in the first half.
The lone points scored in the third quarter came on a three-yard touchdown run by Dupont to put the Jaguars up 21-14. The Raiders attacked early in the fourth quarter on a 22-yard run by Morgan, putting them at 21-20. The extra point attempt by sophomore kicker Christian Orellana was blocked by a Jaguar defender.
The Jaguars were only ahead by one point, but the final five minutes of the game would result in four more touchdowns. On the following play, the kickoff to the Jaguars was returned by Coneys 77 yards for a touchdown to put the Jaguars up 28-20. On the following possession for the Jaguars, after the Raiders failed to score, sophmore Will Mejia found junior receiver John Grey for 43-yard touchdown on a halfback pass, putting the Jaguars farther ahead at 35-20. On the ensuing Raider possession, Mejia picked off Stuart sophomore quarterback Mickey Bickerton for a 35-yard touchdown, extending their lead to 22. On the Raiders’ next possession, they drove the ball down to the red-zone, looking as if they were going to score. Bickerton was then picked off by senior Richard Henderson just in front of the end zone, where he returned it to the 35-yard line. On the next play for the Jaguars, Dupont scored on a 65-yard run, giving the Jaguars their winning 49-20 score.
The Jaguars finished the season on a high note with this victory, putting their final record at 3-7, improving from last year where they finished 0-10. The Raiders’ loss put them at a 2-8, a drop from the 6-4 record they held last season.