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Chris Murphy, Published August 31 2013

Paint Bucket rivalry persists for Jamestown, Valley City State

Jamestown, N.D. - Referee Jim Harty turned around on the football field tucked among the trees and breathed in Rollie Greeno Field on Saturday before the newly named University of Jamestown took on Valley City State for the 106th time.

The crowd noise echoed and the noise from the empty seats was deafening among the 1,398 fans in attendance.

“These stands used to be filled and there were people on the hills,” said Harty, who was a backup quarterback for Jamestown from 1976-79. “It was just a great rivalry. It’s a little calmer now, but it used to be packed.”

Although the stands weren’t full, the history of the Jamestown and Valley City rivalry, which dates back to 1914, could fill any stadium.

The Paint Bucket trophy was supposed to create peace between Jamestown and Valley City State, while symbolizing the hatred.

After a 1961 January meeting by the student bodies of Jamestown and Valley City decided the rivalry had become too rough around the edges, the trophy was created to be taken by the winner of the football game. Just like the paint that scarred the walls of each school thanks to pranks from the other, the trophy would have the winner of each game etched onto it to stare back at the loser and laugh.

But bring peace? There is no peace in the paint bucket.

The winner gets to paint the town red. The loser gets to paint an imaginary picture in which they won.

“It’s the one you want the worst, and it’s the one you want the most,” said Bob Piatz, quarterback from 1976-79 and arguably the greatest athlete to ever play at Jamestown. “The football season is the start of the athletic season, and if you didn’t win that game, you had to live with that the rest of the year.”

The rivalry has everything that represents college football: Chants involving changing the word “city” to a derogatory word for fecal matter, scuffles in the stands and longtime coaching battles. Valley City moved to 33-29 in the series during the Paint Bucket era with a 31-14 win Saturday. The Vikings lead the all-time series 52-50-4.

“It really doesn’t matter what the records are,” said Dave Rausch, who was a Valley City linebacker from 1974-77 and has been a volunteer coach for the last 27 years. “I remember in 1998 we were 0-9 and they were at one time ranked No. 1 in the NAIA and it didn’t matter. We ended up losing 27-24 when we should have just given up and not played. For our kids, a lot of times it’s the biggest game of the year.”

The only amount of peace is in the 35 miles that separate the two colleges, and even that isn’t sacred ground. Valley City refers to Jamestown as the pumpkin heads because of their orange helmets. Rausch recalled when he played that a pumpkin would be placed every mile when Valley City would travel to Jamestown.

“There’s never been a need for a pep talk before this game,” said Valley City football coach Dennis McCulloch, who has been the head coach for the last 17 years. “There’s a different feel for the game. There’s a different intensity. They are close by, they are a private school, we’re a public school, we recruit the same kids, so there’s just a lot of those things that add to the rivalry. It’s been a great atmosphere every year.”

The battle between Jamestown coach Rollie Greeno, who passed away in 2010, and Valley City’s Jim Dew was the stuff of legends. They combined for 270 wins in their 46 years of coaching.

In Dew’s 20 years at Valley City, he won 116 games, eight conference titles and made trips to the NAIA playoffs in 1976, 1980 and 1988. Greeno went 26 years at Jamestown, notching 154 wins, eight conference titles and made one trip to the NAIA playoffs in 1979.

Greeno would tell his players that the season is more than one game.

He would keep their focus on the sidelines in the harshest situations. One example is when a group of Valley City students whose initiation into a club included having to put pumpkins on their heads to mock Jamestown and run around the track during the game. And then said students proceeded to get the pumpkins burst off their heads thanks to the help of the fists of Jamestown students behind the Jamestown bench.

“I remember Coach Greeno trying to get the attention back on the game,” Piatz said of the pumpkin incident. “It got pretty hairy for awhile.”

Or in 1979, calling to take a knee on Valley City’s 1-yard line in the final minute of a game already locked up rather than running up the score with another touchdown.

“The whole team wanted to put one more in on them,” Harty said. “Looking back on it, Greeno was probably right. At the time, we wanted another one.”

But no matter how hard he tried, Greeno showed it was more than another game.

“Coach Greeno you could tell had a different edge on him the week we played Valley City,” Piatz said. “What happened in the trenches was all business.”

What happened outside the trenches made it a rivalry. Like Dew leading his team to the spot where Jamestown normally warmed up before a game on the south side of the field and then sprinting off the field at halftime behind the scoreboard before Greeno could lead his team to the spot he always brought them.

“He knew what he was doing,” Harty said. “He was a great coach. He did a lot of things to get under our skin a lot of times. He knew how to get at Greeno.”

Love can exist in the rivalry. Harty has been married to his wife, Connie, for 32 years. Not only was Connie a Valley City cheerleader, but she was the sister of Piatz. Piatz, the oldest of nine children, had three brothers, along with Connie, go to Valley City and one go to Jamestown.

“There’s a lot of trash talking at family reunions,” Piatz said.

There could be a lot more at the next one, seeing as Valley City won and Harty was officiating the game for the first time in his 25 years of being a college ref.

He never had a chance.

“It’s basically a lose-lose for him,” Piatz said. “He’ll hear it from us no matter what.”

Saturday was a nonconference game, otherwise an alumnus would not be officiating it. But Harty was at home on the field filled with so many memories.

“We had this weekend off, and they called and asked my crew if we’d work the game,” Harty said. “I got friends at Valley City. It was a great rivalry, but we’re all friends today.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548