The  Bayou Bowl Banquet started off with a cheer Monday night with both the Bridge City Cardinal and Orangefield Bobcat Cheerleaders performing and getting the large crowd motivated for the upcoming football game Friday night.

More than 100 people arrived to support the teams during the annual scholarship banquet. They were served gumbo and there were two cakes for dessert. One was topped with a cardinal while the other had a bobcat.

A friendly rivalry surrounds the Bayou Bowl which began in 2000 when UIL district realignment assigned Bridge City from a Class 4-A to a Class 3-A. As a result, the change pitted the Cardinals against the neighboring Bobcats.

The Penny Record newspaper coined the game name to the “Bayou Bowl.” The newspaper sponsored and promoted the event the first four Bayou Bowl contests. In 2004, the newspaper turned the trophy presentation over to the Bridge City-Orangefield Rotary Club, according to archives.

The Buzzie Gunn trophy remains the winning football team’s prize to keep until they meet again at the next Bayou Bowl. The trophy is regarded as a symbol for good sportsmanship and memorializes local photographer and Orange County enthusiast the late Buzzie Gunn. Along with his father, T.L. Gunn, the pair were pioneers in photographing the early years of Orange County football for the local media. Buzzie later became the second generation of Gunn’s Studio in Orange after shooting for various publications which included Sports Illustrated. Today the studio is owned by Buzzie’s son, Chris.

The money raised will go towards two scholarships to be given to one football player from each team during their spring athletic banquet. The coaching staff of each team nominates three players. Then after carefully evaluating each nominee, one is chosen.

Bridge City Head Coach, Cris Stump  spoke to the football team and others during the banquet. Stump told the audience of  listeners that years from now, they may not remember a test they took this week or anything else, but they will always remember playing in this weeks game.

“I tell these guys, it doesn’t matter what happened last week or last year, but what happens this Friday night,” Stump said.

Stump added, he thought the students, at the banquet, such as football players, band members, drill team and cheerleaders were all “special” people  since they were both from small schools and the total number  of students involved represented a large number of the school.

“You are leaders of the school,” he said. “You are leaders of your community.”

He concluded by wishing everyone luck for the upcoming game.

Josh Smalley, Orangefield Head Coach, stated he has had the opportunity to coach at both schools, but loves where he is now. Smalley was also a BCHS graduate.

“Just because you change jobs doesn’t mean you stop caring about people,” he added.

Smalley admitted he had mixed emotions about the game and understands everyone’s feelings. But, overall in the scheme of things he felt both teams respected each other.

“I know it’s going to be a great game and it’s going to be a competitive game,” Smalley said.

He ended by wishing everyone the best of luck.

Also a speaker during the banquet was Kirk Ellender who said he and his wife have raised three children who attended BCHS.

“There was no bigger thrill for me as a parent to watch them play ball,” he said.

He added to some it is “just a game.” But to coaches, it is a job so they can take care of their families. For the band and drill teams it is a chance to perform in front of a crowd. For the fans and cheerleaders it is chance to cheer their team on to victory. But, for the football players it is about the “football experience.”

Football gives them the chance to learn things such as humility, team work and builds character. They also learn leadership skills and how to win with grace and even more important how to lose with grace, Ellender said.

“What I would say to you, it’s all about perspective,” he said.

Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Friday in Orangefield at the OHS stadium.

The football teams from Bridge City and Orangefield gathered Monday evening for the annual Bayou Bowl Banquet. The week long activities will end with a football game 7 p.m. Friday in Orangefield at the OHS stadium.