SHERMAN & DENISON, TX -- An ax. To most, it chops wood. But to the people of Sherman and Denison Texas, it stands for a rivalry that only one can imagine. Some say The Battle of the Ax the longest standing rivalry in the state.
"The rivalry that they have is as good as there is in the state of Texas or anywhere in the nation," Denison Assistant Principal John Parker said.
The Battle of the Ax began in 1906, and was originally played on Thanksgiving day.
"No, it was about the football game. And you had to rush through dinner. I had to rush through dinner to get to the field," 1948 Sherman graduate Sara Lane added.
In 1949, the rivalry took a negative turn. Denison businessman Jack Barker, who owned the Main Street ice cream store, wanted to bury the ax.
"And Mister Barker in Denison wanted to give us a feeling of good sportsmanship, so he decided he would donate the ax to the football teams to pass back and forth to the winners," Lane explained.
Sherman won the ax first in 49, 13 to 7. The outcome of every game is engraved on the ax blade and once it's filled, the team with the most victories will keep the original ax. Since 1906, the Bearcats have 57 wins to Denison's 32, and there have been 6 ties. Surprisingly, the ax has never been stolen back or held as ransom by the opposing team.
"It's pretty much a well-guarded thing. When we have it, we'll put it in the trophy case, but it's put up every night in the safe," Parker said.
So as these two teams meet for the 113th time... a victory, the ax, bragging rights. Yes that would be nice, but the schools know they are playing for something bigger than themselves. The Bearcats and the Yellow Jackets fight it out year after year for the love of the game and the pride in their city.