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Clash of clans: Chargers versus Mustang

By Jay Li Nov. 10 2022

Ellie Kim Art

At the Pat Tillman stadium,

the bleachers are filled to the brim. Students, parents and members of Almaden Valley’s community gather to cheer for the youth. Every year, the Almaden community comes to watch this paramount sports game: the Battle of the Den. Although many sports, seasons, players and coaches come and go, one thing remains consistent: the school’s long-standing rivalry with Pioneer High School, both alternating to host the Battle of the Den as a landmark of their competition. This is the most attended sports game at the school and also involves a celebratory dance integrating both schools. Many high schools take part in rivalries against each other, similar to the school’s with Pioneer involving friendly competition and school spirit.

Ellie Kim Art

The Battle of the Den refers to every athletic competition the school and Pioneer High School play against each other, originating from the school’s founding in 1967 with the very first class of students transferring from Pioneer. The school and Pioneer’s rivalry is attributed to their close proximity in the same region of Almaden. The proximity of both schools is also where the name is derived from, as the “Den” refers to the last syllable of Almaden.

“We coordinate and plan everything together, so a lot of teamwork goes into the dance. From the theme to the DJ to the food, it is all discussed and planned collaboratively. Each school receives about $10,000 to $16,000 in revenue from their own independently sold tickets for the mixer dance. The schools split the cost of the DJ, photo booth, decorations et cetera, and profit from the tickets afterward, ” Pioneer’s ASB President Allison Grove said.

The school and Pioneer are not the only schools that partake in a school rivalry tradition, as almost every high school with another in its proximity spontaneously begins a rivalry, whereas others are created by school officials in efforts to sell more tickets or support school programs. High school sports rivalries such as that between Norwich Free Academy and New London High School can be centuries old. The two schools host an annual Thanksgiving football game that dates back to 1875.

Like others, the school commemorates the event in the form of a Battle of the Den shield displayed in the front office. The shield records every football game’s win or loss against Pioneer since 2017. Mr. Harrington, the school's former art teacher, designed the shield from reclaimed redwood along with a handful of football players.

“I love the Battle of the Den as a fun school tradition. Not only does it bring students together here at the school by encouraging camaraderie, but it also brings Mustangs and Chargers together by engaging in school spirit and connects the Almaden Valley community as a whole,” Sophomore Erin Andrada said.

However, school rivalries can sometimes get out of hand. For example, last year, when the school played Pioneer in a basketball game, Pioneer students taunted “daddy’s money” when the school’s cheerleaders walked in, one of the cheerleaders being Senior Nicole Magana.

“In some ways, the Battle of the Den breeds a healthy environment because it brings the school together. However, it can also bring toxicity and ignite unsportsmanlike behavior from both sides,” Magana said.

The Battle of the Den is a long-standing Almaden tradition, representing the Charger-Mustang rivalry that has existed since the founding of the school, and it has no indication of coming to an end.


About the Contributors

Jay Li

staff writer

Jay Li is a sophomore at Leland and a writer for The Charger Account. In his free time, he enjoys reading and sleeping.

Ellie Kim

art director

Ellie Kim is a senior at Leland High School and one of the art directors for The Charger Account. When she’s not doing schoolwork, she enjoys scrolling through Pinterest, making Spotify playlists and sleeping.

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