Benton Rangers vs West Frankfort Redbirds Rivalry

Benton Rangers vs West Frankfort Redbirds Rivalry
Posted on 01/24/2020
Written by Grant O.

A sports rivalry is an intense competition between two athletic teams or athletes. In Franklin County, the most common rivalry is between the Benton Rangers and the West Frankfort Redbirds. The Rangers and the Redbirds have the most intense games I have ever seen. The games consist of players competing against each other to win and all the fans screaming and cheering for their team to win.

‚ÄčThe annual game between Benton and West Frankfort started in 1916, and only the war and national flu epidemic had kept the two teams from squaring off each year. On a hot and steamy Sunday afternoon in 2019, the teams met for the 104th time. The maroon and white Ranger fans and the red and gray Redbird fans filled Johnson Field in anticipation of the game. The Rangers dominated the game with powerful Benton running back Tyler Butler leading the Rangers to a 28-point win by scoring four touchdowns. The performance made Tyler the WSIL-TV player of the week. This Franklin County rivalry game was played for many years on Thanksgiving Day. Former players and their families were back in the area for the holiday. These families would either eat their holiday feasts early in the morning prior to the game or wait until the evening following the game to gather for turkey dinner. The game as produced memories for players and families over the years. One Benton player from the 1950's remembered battling with hard-hitting Redbird player Joe Windrahowski, who went on to become an all-conference Big 10 football player at the University of Illinois and then to stardom with the NFL's New Orleans Saints as a center. When asked why he thought the rivalry was important, the Benton player stated that it was because "the players from both towns knew each other and they wanted to play well against each other." Another Benton player from the 2000's team stated that, "losing to the Redbirds was unacceptable." He believed the game was so important because of the closeness of the towns and the tradition of the game. Chase Thomas, who played in the most recent game, when asked how he felt on game day, stated, "I felt excited to play and thought about crushing kids on the field." The Benton and West Frankfort football game brings families and communities together. The game is important no matter what the teams' records. The 2019 game featured two undefeated teams going in and ended with the Rangers still unbeaten. This rivalry will continue for many decades in the future.
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