There may not be a better high school rivalry in Michigan than the annual Whitehall-Montague football matchup.LSJ Logo incert

It’s a neighborhood battle that dates back at least 70 years, according to Chuck Hulce.

And he knows a little bit about it, since he coached the Montague football team from 1969-77 and the Whitehall squad from 1979-81.

Hulce was on hand on Thursday as the two schools renewed an old tradition in the rivalry that had fallen by the wayside years ago – having the pregame coin-toss ceremony the night before on the causeway bridge over the White River that connects the cities of Whitehall and Montague.

“I am thinking the last time was in the early 80’s,” said Hulce, who was inducted in the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in March. “And to pinpoint when, I know we did this in ’81.”

The coin flip occurred at the middle of the bridge with both schools’ football teams, cheerleaders and bands joining in the ceremony.

“I was on both sides of the river and it was kind of nice to stand in the middle and have no vested interest,” said Hulce, a 1964 graduate of Ann Arbor Pioneer High School. “It’s kind of exciting to know what these kids are going through. I told them that this is something they will always remember.”

Montague Coach Pat Collins said the coin toss ceremony is unique and special, because players, coaches, students and fans have friends and family on both sides.

As Whitehall Coach Tony Sigmon put it, the White Lake area really is one big community, separated only by city and school district boundaries.

“The coaches on their staff know our guys,” Collins said. “We hang out with guys from over there and it’s pretty cool with all the connections. It’s a big game on our radar every year. Tony Sigmon and the Whitehall crew are doing a great job and have amped (the rivalry) up as of late.”

Fans can only guess who will win on Friday night. Both teams enter the “Battle for the Bell” with perfect 4-0 records.

Montague won the coin toss and will decide before the game if it will kick or receive.