The Victor Carrillo Trophy (right) is fashioned after a border marker and is the new icon of the Battle for the Border and Calexico city championship rivalry game between Calexico High and Vincent Memorial Catholic. Longtime Calexico sports broadcaster and community figure Vic Carrillo (right photo, left) holds up the trophy nameplate beside his former Bulldog Radio and current Valley Sports Network broadcast partner, John Moreno. | PHOTOS COURTESY VSN AND JOHN MORENO
CALEXICO — Brawley and Central Union’s football teams have captured the hearts and minds of their communities for decades, playing for a $50 brass ship’s bell since 1943 that has helped elevate the game to sacred space.
Now Calexico appears to have found an equally iconic representation for its comparatively new rivalry game and city championship, the Battle for the Border between the Calexico High Bulldogs and cross-town squad, the Vincent Memorial Catholic Scots.
When the final seconds ticked off the clock on the seventh Battle for the Border on Friday night, Oct. 26, at Ward Field in Calexico, the Bulldogs’ first win in four tries saw the team and coach hoist a hefty piece of hardware to mark the occasion — The Victor Carrillo Trophy, a solid granite border marker fashioned to resemble one of the 258 international boundary obelisks that spanned the U.S.-Mexico border, from El Paso, Texas, to San Ysidro.
“Having something to play for is a big part of any rivalry. It’s a source of pride for either team that is going to get to carry it around after the game,” second-year Bulldog head coach Fernando Solano said. “Capturing that trophy and lifting it in the air on Friday will make a lot of our alumni proud.”
“A rivalry game like this needs to have something to work for, the trophy is something that kids can see and go out and work for,” Wong said. “The rivalry game is good for the city, the kids in both programs. It helps motivate a lot of people in the community.”
Finding that added motivation for the contest is what moved Calexico High alum, former Bulldog athletic director, and current Aurora High School Principal John Moreno to seek out something lasting and iconic, like the Bell Game bell, or the fireman’s helmet that commemorates the rivalry between the Imperial Tigers and the Southwest Eagles of El Centro in memory of the late Johnny Romero, for example.
However, it was from Moreno’s place as one half of the storied Bulldog Radio broadcast team with trophy namesake Vic Carrillo that Moreno took it upon himself — with both schools’ blessing, of course — to find a symbol that could have a lasting legacy through the decades.
The trophy was named after Moreno’s broadcast partner at the suggestion of Jaime Santos, and both schools’ administrations agreed that Carrillo’s contributions to sports, education and the community made him a worthy selection. He has been a remarkable player, a coach, educator, elected official and Calexico city manager.
Moreno said earlier this week that naming the trophy after Carrillo was kept hush-hush until the game on Friday night, Oct. 29, to surprise his partner.
As for the trophy itself, Moreno in seeking out the perfect icon, found inspiration in the unlikeliest of places.
“In thinking of what to present, I thought, you know, a fence or a wall that’s not the right concept. Then I remembered an old video by Huell Howser in ‘California’s Gold,’ where he comes and visits Calexico and they visit the Port of Entry, and right there in the video is an obelisk, which was a boundary marker for both countries,” Moreno said.
The city of Calexico, he said, was the site of marker No. 220.
“I shared the idea with Calexico ASB Director Raul Martinez, and I shared it with Vincent’s athletic director and their coaches, and they liked the idea,” Moreno said.
Enter Eduardo “Eddie” Rascon, Calexico High alum from the Class of 1978 and sculptor of gravestones and monuments for his Acropolis West Designs of San Diego.
Rascon had already created two monuments for Calexico High School, one in honor of football stadium namesake Willis Ward and a running man for the school track named in honor of Cal Armstrong and Jesus Rojas, Moreno said.
Rascon donated the Battle for the Border trophy free of charge, a 12- to 15-pound solid granite piece, with etched verbiage taken right off the border markers, one of its three sides in English (“Boundary of the United States, Treaty of 1853, Re-Established by Treaties of 1882-1889”) and one side a Spanish-language translation.
On Saturday, Oct. 23, Moreno picked up the trophy at Rascon’s shop in San Diego and brought it home after spending the day with friends from Calexico. He was so excited and in awe of what Rascon had created, Moreno immediately texted photos of the piece to friends, with a dusty pickup as the backdrop.
Battle for the Border started in 2004, and former Bulldog coach John Tyree had T-shirts printed up with the slogan in 2016, which preceded a more consistent schedule. Due to the fact that Calexico and Vincent Memorial played in different leagues — Imperial Valley League and Desert League, respectively — the head-to-head meetings were occasional up until then. Moreno hopes such a beautiful monument will keep the contest a set part of the schedule.
“I hope. … It should be the last game. As long as there are five teams in the IVL and five teams in the Desert League, this can happen,” Moreno said, “because there’s always one nonleague game in the schedule.”
This year, at least, the game takes on even more significance for the 4-5 Bulldogs, Coach Solano said in closing.
“We are really hyped up for this game. A lot is at stake,” he added. “It’s for bragging rights in the city, it can get us to a .500 season, it’s our Homecoming and it’s Senior Night.”
Sports Editor Murray Anderson contributed to this report.
(This story was updated on Tuesday, Nov. 2, with information on the naming of the trophy in honor of Victor Carrillo.)