Sixteen years removed from a playoff berth, the Kingman Bulldogs have been longing for relevance. The last time they advanced to the postseason, they were the only team in town.
Now that there are three teams in Kingman, and Kingman High faces Lee Williams at 7 tonight at LWHS, relevance returns with the first step of being the pride of the city taking place.
"The thought of our Bulldog family taking on another Kingman team is intense," Dyllan Farney said. Farney is a 2013 KHS graduate who embodied the spirit of the Kingman Bulldogs when he was in school and has continued to do so.
"When our Bulldogs go step on that territory that once was ours, it will be a clean but brutal war zone to say the least," he said. "We have something to go out there and prove - not only to our opponent but our community as well - to remind them that the Bulldogs are still here; loud and proud."
Kingman High used to be located on the Lee Williams campus and the Bulldogs played their home games in the same stadium.
While the football teams battle it out for a city championship, there has been a lot of effort to make the budding rivalry civil. One gigantic effort toward accomplishing that feat comes from the two school's bands. Lee Williams and Kingman will join forces to play each school's fight songs and remain together to perform other songs.
Lee Williams and Kingman Academy have played each other the past two seasons, but Kingman was left out because the Bulldogs had been two divisions higher. This year, though, all three squads are in Division IV.
"Our kids have never felt this," said KHS student council advisor Jennifer Jackson. "They don't know cross-town rivalries. Sometimes our kids don't think things are possible, but it's cool for the kids to see pride developing."
Sophomore Ramon Chavez plays on the KHS JV football team, which defeated Lee Williams Monday 28-6, and practices with the varsity team. Chavez sees the football aspect of tonight's game clearly, and he sees the significance for Kingman even more so.
"It makes me happy this week to see everyone enjoying it and having fun being excited for this," Chavez said. "People who used to go to KHS are planning on going, and student council is putting a tailgate together that is allowing the town and everyone to be part of this. It's about more than supporting the football team."
Kingman High will be letting Lee Williams know when it arrives for the game. The Bulldog faithful begin tailgating at 5 p.m. at KHS and will caravan down to Lee Williams prior to kick-off. Spike the Bulldog will lead the caravan in a convertible being donated by 66 Auto Sales.
"Spike will be there to let the 'Dawgs' out," Farney said. "And hopefully fire the Volunteers."
Though the crescendo for this week is tonight's football game, both schools are hopeful to use all the festivities as a foundation for years to come. Junior Martha Aguilar recognizes it, and she wants everyone to understand it is history in the making for Kingman High.
"It's first time (in football) we're going against a school from our home town," Aguilar said. "Win or lose, I hope we can still contribute together to Kingman. I hope we come out with respect for Lee Williams."
A rivalry of this magnitude wouldn't be complete without some friendly wagering going on. KHS principal Rusty Moomey and LWHS principal Gretchen Dorner will make a visit to the other school to sing its fight song over the intercom if their team loses. And the losing student councils and advisors will have to wear the opposing team's jersey for photos that will be posted on all social media used for a week.
And the best part about the rivalry? The city of Kingman wins.