At least for one year, the annual Prune Bowl between Gilroy High and San Benito High will be no more. For the first time since 1967, the Prune Bowl will not be held in the fall of 2013.
After last week’s realignment of the Monterey Bay League’s divisions, where the Mustangs were dropped to the lower Pacific Division, the two long-time rivals were placed into different leagues, forcing the rivalry game to become a non-league contest.
When San Benito High administrators tried to schedule the game during the non-league slate, Gilroy High representatives declined, SBHS athletic director Tod Thatcher said.
“We offered to play a non-league game and they declined,” Thatcher said. “Their program is so down and after the results of this year’s game, they wanted to take some time off.”
He continued, “I think it’s horrible.”
But for Gilroy, the decision was made simply for the safety of its athletes, GHS athletic director Julie Berggren said.
“This was a well thought out decision,” she said. “It’s rough to go away from tradition but we have to look out for the safety of our athletes.”
During the Balers’ 70-0 win in October, the Mustangs lost three sophomores to season ending injuries, Berggren said. With limited resources due to the school’s size of 1,600 students, it’s tough to field a big enough team to play squads like San Benito.
“We want to build their confidence,” she said. “When you lose game in and game out, you’re not building confidence and we saw that in the numbers. We need to play teams more like us that are in the same pool size.”
The Mustangs will do just that next year against Watsonville and Pajaro Valley.
Since Gilroy last beat San Benito in 2009 (35-30), the Baler have won the past three contest by a combined score of 143-35. In those three years, San Benito has won a Central Coast Section title (2012) and a league title (2011) while going a combined 21-13-1. Meanwhile, Gilroy has gone 8-22 with no postseason appearances. Gilroy has yet to record a winning season since 2008 when it went 9-2. Since 1956, San Benito holds the all-time record at 32-23-1.
With so much history, the future after next fall remains uncertain, Thatcher said.
“I don’t know what the future holds,” Thatcher said. “I’m really pessimistic about it. This is a 57-year-old tradition and when you stop it, it’s hard to get it back. It doesn’t hold the same significance.”
Because of multiple year non-league contract with other schools, the game might not return until Gilroy returns to the same league as San Benito.
“It’s going to be tough to get it back to where it is,” Thatcher said. “It’s a shame. I’m big on tradition. It’s not easy letting it go. I’m very disappointed that it will not be played. Tradition is important with high school football.”
Berggren, though, believes the game won’t be dormant for long.
“We expect to get back to where we were,” she said. “We are hoping this doesn’t become a long-time thing. We will be back.”