FOOTBALL: Holy Bowl tradition brings Central Catholic and Holy Cross together again

Buttons, Knights meet tonight after four-year hiatus

AREA TEAMS INCLUDED: Central Catholic, Holy Cross.

Laredo native Polo Botello remembers his first Holy Bowl in 1992 as a learning experience.

Botello was the freshman coach at Central Catholic, his first coaching job in a long career. He spent 12 years as a football assistant and head baseball coach for the Buttons. He’s now on the other side of the rivalry. It’s Botello’s 14th season in the same capacity at Holy Cross.

When the series resumes 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8 at Alamo Stadium – following a four-year lapse – Botello will be in the coaches booth for his 22nd Holy Bowl. He, therefore, qualifies as something of an expert on what the 47th renewal of the rivalry means to both Central Catholic and Holy Cross.

“Central Catholic had the ball, up two (points) and was trying to run out the clock,” Botello said. “Holy Cross tried a field goal of about 40 yards and it missed, but the refs called a penalty. They moved it up to 35 yards, and the guy just missed it. I started to understand something about Holy Cross that night, and I was just learning about Central Catholic.

“It has always been exciting. When I was (at Central Catholic), they always wanted to beat Holy Cross. Now that I’m at Holy Cross, people only want to know if we beat Central Catholic.”

Central Catholic Vice President of Student Development Eddie Ybarra, who was serving as interim principal then, said the resurrection of the Holy Bowl can be traced to a February dinner meeting between representatives of both schools at Lisa’s Mexican Restaurant at 815 Bandera Road. There, in neutral territory, Ybarra said each voiced pros and cons about resuming the series. They decided to put the wheels in motion.

“It’s a rivalry that shows mutual respect on and off the field,” Ybarra said. “It’s one of those games where both sides have passion and it’s very emotional. Everybody shows their love for their school – alumni, parents, friends and relatives. They come out to see this game.”

Holy Cross won the last two games in the series in 2012 (37-32) and 2013 (21-14), but Central Catholic has the overall edge with a 35-11 record. It is the city’s second-oldest active rivalry, behind only the Frontier Bowl. On Nov. 9, Harlandale and McCollum are set to meet for the 56th time in the series.

For several years, the schools had been district rivals. But the series was halted after Central Catholic moved up to TAPPS Class 6A while Holy Cross remained in 5A.

“I’m excited about it,” ninth-year Holy Cross coach Mike Harrison said. “It’s an opportunity to renew a great rivalry. A Saturday night game at Alamo Stadium, it’s a major deal. The great thing is that this is the major private-school rivalry.”

The Holy Bowl will be broadcast on KCWX-TV (virtual channel 2 & VHF digital channel 5). The schools had organized activities throughout the week and will have more during the game which will unite both student bodies.

Second-year Central Catholic coach Mike Santiago is looking forward to coaching in his first Holy Bowl, but it won’t be the first time he has viewed the game. Santiago said he scouted the Holy Bowl for recruiting purposes as University of the Incarnate Word coach.

“The game only lasts 40 minutes,” Santiago said, “but there are things from the game that can carry on for a lifetime. This is not about winning and losing. It’s about playing and representing the community the right way.

“Alamo Stadium is a great venue for the fans. I’m looking forward to it.”


Central Catholic 8 wins

Holy Cross 6 wins

(winner in boldface)

Date               Central Catholic  Holy Cross

2000         14                        10               

2001         28                        9               

2002         17                        15               

2003         34                        0               

2004         20                        31               

2005         7                        30               

2006         7                        28               

2007         13                        9               

2008         41                        7               

2009         34                        14               

2010         42                        14               

2011         27                        57               

2012         32                        37               

2013         14                        21               


Total points       310                      282               

Overall series record:

Central Catholic 35 wins

Holy Cross 11 wins


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