It is much more than just a football game. It is a special kind of rivalry.

That was the message Monday night when the Bridge City Cardinals and the Orangefield Bobcats came together to dine, reflect and share laughs during the Bayou Bowl Scholarship Banquet at Bridge City High School. The banquet kicked off Bayou Bowl week that will culminate on Friday when the two football teams compete in Bayou Bowl XI.

As part of the Bayou Bowl tradition the winning team will be awarded the Buzzie Gunn Trophy by the Rotary Club of Bridge City-Orangefield after the game. It will remain with the winners until next football season when the trophy once again goes up for grabs.

“The number one reason we have this banquet is to honor our football teams, coaches and the fans from Bridge City and Orangefield,” said Master of Ceremonies, Jerry McInnis.

In it’s second year the banquet hosted by the Bridge City Chamber of Commerce will award two $1,000 scholarships to a senior player on each team.

“The players to be awarded will be those that show good sportsmanship not only during the game but off the field for the remainder of the school year.” McInnis said. Last season the honors went to two quarterbacks, Orangefield’s Corey Huckabay and Josh Lemoine of Bridge City.

The banquet was highlighted by appearances of two former Bayou Bowl performers. Speaking on what the game meant to them then and now were Bryan Dubose and Johnny Dishon. Dubose was a Bobcat in Bayou Bowl II and III and Dishon a Cardinal in Bayou Bowl V, VI and VII. Dishon’s younger brother, Cameron, is a defensive back and wide receiver in Bayou Bowl XI.

“It’s more than just a football game,” Dubose said, “A rivalry has evolved- but a special kind of rivalry. A rivalry so unique that it brings two communities together in an uncommon way. In the aftermath of Hurricane Ike I saw Orangefield football players helping their friends in flooded Bridge City. I know Bridge City would have done the same for Orangefield.”

“Live it, take it all in and enjoy this special game we call the Bayou Bowl,” Dubose said.

Dishon, who was joined by his two year old daughter Parker and wife Christi, spoke to the players when he said, “Love the game. You are part of a linage of tradition and now it is your legacy.”

Orangefield senior quarterback Quinton Evans and Bridge City lineman Shane Stankus also spoke during the banquet.

The two school district superintendents made a friendly wager on Friday nights contest. OFISD superintendent Phillip Welch and BCISD superintendent Jamey Harrison attend the same church. On Sunday the superintendent of the loosing team will wear the jersey of the opponent.

“We’re going to be doing a lot of yelling at each other on Friday night,” Harrison said, “But we’ll be friends again afterward. Bridge City and Orangefield are the two best school districts in Texas.”

Gary Stelly of KOGT radio used a humorous power point presentation with photos that jabbed at coaches and players.

A friendly rivalry surrounds the Bayou Bowl that began in 2000 when UIL district realignment re-assigned Bridge City from Class-4A to Class-3A. The change pitted the Cardinals with district repercussions against the neighboring Orangefield Bobcats.

The Penny Record newspaper came up with the game-name “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 Rotary Club. This year the Rotarians will provide a spaghetti dinner just prior to the game on Nov. 5 at the Bridge City Middle School. The meal will be served between 5 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Tickets are $7 each with the proceeds going towards a significant community project.