The Cola Wars: Arcola weighs in on historic rivalry

High School Sports

ARCOLA (WCIA) — A quick drive through Arcola and you’ll see football means a lot to the community. This week, it means even more.

“You had the whole town rooting for you,” Chad Hopkins said. “There’s just nothing like 1A football, Friday nights.”

Hopkins played for Arcola from 1985-1988, winning two state titles. He won another as an assistant coach in 2015 and was also with the Tuscola program in ’06 when the Warriors won the championship.

“I think it’s changed quite a bit,” Hopkins said about the match-up of Douglas County teams. “The rivalry means more to the older generation. When we stopped playing every year the kids didn’t know exactly what it meant.”

Garrison Stenger is also an assistant for the Purple Riders. He played in the 2007 semifinal game, and for him, the Cola War extends much farther than this Friday.

“I married a girl from Tuscola,” Stenger said. ‘So in our household we go back and forth quite a bit.”

The Cola Wars, as it’s become known, used to be one of the biggest rivalries in Illinois. But Tuscola left the Little Okaw Valley conference in 2007, ending their yearly meeting. Since then, the rivalry has lost some of its luster, especially considering this year’s senior class was in 5th grade the last time these two teams played.

“I’d still call it a rivalry but it’s just the age of people now compared to what it was, it’s a lot different,” Stenger added. “A lot more parents were into it than their kids now”

This could be the only match-up between the two schools for a while, if the IHSA decides to go to districts, or the new look Little Okaw Valley starts play next season with a 10-team closed conference.

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