Crowds turn out

Crowds turn out whenever Half Moon Bay and Terra Nova high schools meet as they did on Friday in Half Moon Bay.

Photo courtesy Becky Ruppel

We love rivalries: Ford vs. Ferrari, Ali vs. Frazier, Cal vs. Stanford. Friday’s showdown between the Terra Nova and Half Moon Bay high school basketball teams proved that passion sometimes runs deepest when the rivals are also neighbors.

The excitement in the Half Moon Bay High School gym has been building since the termination of another rivalry. In the early '90s Oceana High School ended its football program and that brought an end to the cross-town rivalry between Terra Nova and Oceana. This prompted the head coach at Terra Nova High School to contact Half Moon Bay High to establish a new rivalry game. In later years, the two schools would anoint a sabertooth tiger skull as the chosen prize for the victor, and thus the infamous “Skull Game” was born.   

When the Half Moon Bay and Terra Nova rivalry began, passions ran high. The basketball game on Friday night proved that the rivalry is still as strong as ever.

“The rivalry was just as thick then as it is now,” said Cougar alum Kim Harrington, “The rivalry is multigenerational and it's deep. The HMB-Terra Nova games are the ones that everybody comes out for. There's so much energy and passion behind it.” 

Both schools feel equally passionate about this rivalry, as Aslan Carvalho, a Terra Nova alum, makes clear: “Gettin' down and dirty, in the trenches, working for a common goal with your brothers, it's fun!  It brings everyone together.” 

Perhaps it is not surprising that this rivalry can raise concerns for safety, with police often onsite during these games. Half Moon Bay Principal John Nazar shares some of the steps they take to ensure that this remains a fun and safe environment for both sides.

“We do have more teachers and more supervision when we play these games. Terra Nova brings down their principal here and their athletic director. We want to be cautious because we want to make it safe for every student,” Nazar said. “I like that there's a level of intensity to it, and that both schools have pride in their school.

“The funniest thing is how badly both schools want that skull for football,” he said. “That thing is the most god-awful ugly thing I've ever seen in my life!  I have to walk by it and see it in the office and it's ugly!’

Ugly or not, the skull comes with bragging rights. Even with no skull on the line for basketball games, Half Moon Bay was proud to take home the win against rival Terra Nova, adding to an impressive list of accomplishments: an undefeated Peninsula Athletic League season so far, three straight undefeated league seasons, and 32 straight wins.

— By Lily McGraw, Special to the Tribune


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