Christian Estrella attended the Douglas-Bisbee football rivalry game for as long as he could remember. Then he started playing in it.

The three-year varsity tight end and linebacker is just the latest Estrella to take part in one of the nation’s longest lasting rivalries. All of Estrella’s older brothers and step-brothers played in the iconic game; so did his father.

Now, Estrella is preparing to play in his last rivalry game — and wants to bring the Copper Pick trophy home. The Bulldogs play Bisbee for the 148th time Friday night. The rivalry between the mining towns is the fourth-most-played high school football game in the nation, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. The teams played twice every season from 1906-51. The series was discontinued from 1991-94.

“Well, it’s a really big honor, first of all, to be in one of the longest rivalries in high school history. And it’s just exciting,” Estrella said. “There’s a lot of energy and it’s great.”

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Second-year Douglas coach James Fitzgerald says the rivalry with Bisbee is “more important” than other games.

Junior Christian Karlinsey attended his first Copper Pick game when he was 8 years old. It gave him something to look forward to — and once he made the team, something to work toward.

“I’m really hyped,” Karlinsey said. “I’ve been hitting the weight room since the offseason, I’ve been working hard, I haven’t missed a practice since January. I’m going real hard.”

Second-year coach James Fitzgerald said his team is preparing as hard as they can, watching film and taking care of themselves. The team just had its first grade check-in, and all players will be eligible to play Friday.

Fitzgerald said the best way to prepare for the rivalry game is to stay focused. That was tested Monday afternoon, when a monsoon hit during practice. The Bulldogs continued working on different drills until lightning struck nearby. The team then took shelter in the locker room.

“You can’t say it’s like any other week because it’s not,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s more important, so the kids have to realize that, too.”

Fitzgerald moved to Douglas last summer and lost his first rivalry game to Bisbee, 22-21. Now that he’s lived in town for more than a year, Fitzgerald knows how important the game is to the community.

“I consider this my first full year — because games aren’t won in the fall, they’re won in the offseason,” Fitzgerald said. “So, being able to have the guys for a full offseason, a full spring, has been very beneficial. I’m really excited for this year.”

Manny Mejia was part of last year’s varsity squad, and he said the loss hurt. This year, he’s hoping it’s the Bulldogs who make a statement.

There’s just one thing he really wants: “Revenge. And bringing The Pick back home where it belongs.”


Contact sports reporter Norma Gonzalez at 262-3265 or ngonzalez@tucson.com. On Twitter @normacatalina12