The Greenville Yellow Jackets have been playing football on Judd Street at Black Field since 1916. The Yellow Jackets have been playing football against the Belding Redskins since 1900.
Obviously, the Yellow Jackets have played the most games at Black Field. Unofficially, the Redskins have played the second most games at Black Field. How could they not have with the length of this rivalry?
It’s not just the length of this rivalry that makes it so special. That is big part of it, but so is the intensity, the community involvement and what it means to those involved.
Current coaches Joel Wilker of Belding and Dave Moore of Greenville have been involved in the rivalry for many years, so they know what it means. Wilker’s first game was in 1995 and Moore’s was in 2003.
Moore said he was constantly told about Belding, some good and some bad, when he first moved to town.
“That is the only thing people wanted to talk about when I came here,” Moore said. “Someone was showing me around town and we were driving on M-91 and they pointed and said, ‘That’s Belding, we hate them.’”
Now, hate is a pretty powerful word. It may be true for some on both sides, but typically it is all about community pride.
“I was told this was a very intense rivalry between two communities that are close and love their sports and that you kind of have to see it to believe it,” Wilker said.
Both coaches have been around many years and have coached in other states. Moore in Texas and Wilker in California. Both agree this is one of the best rivalries anywhere.
“One thing about California, because it’s so big we had some rivals, but it wasn’t as intense,” Wilker said. “I think it’s because here we get more community involvement. In that regard, we didn’t play in anything like this.”
“I think it’s really cool our communities are so close,” Moore said. “We are so much alike in so many different ways. I think it brings the communities together in a way like nothing else could. How many rivalries are there more than 100 years old. That is a pretty special thing we have going here.”
These two teams have been meeting to start the season since 1991. They meet to close the year from 1982 to 1990 and everywhere in between prior.
“I think it’s awesome it’s the first game of the year,” Moore said. “It helps you to focus on the whole offseason. I didn’t know if I would like that at first, but I really like it now.”
“As far as excitement it’s incredible,” Wilker said of game one. “I think as a coach you don’t have to worry about motivation for the kids. It’s neat and it’s fun.”
Overall, the Yellow Jackets — according to research done by Greenville coach Dave Moore — lead the series 57-31-6 including this year’s 46-40 victory by the Yellow Jackets.
“The games have been remarkably close throughout the years,” Moore said. “There have been a few years here and there where scores were lopsided, but mostly close.”
Over the years each school has had their winning streaks.
Belding won 10 in a row from 1989 to 1998 and 12 of 14 overall through 2002. Greenville has won eight of the last nine, but have never won more than four in a row.
Shutouts have been posted by one team or the other 29 times, but only four times in the last 30 years.
That includes two scoreless ties in 1932 and 1967. Belding hasn’t been shutout since 1988 and the Yellow Jackets were last blanked in 2002.
Greenville’s 46 points this year was the most ever scored against Belding. Their 38-0 win in 1935 is the Yellow Jackets’ largest margin of victory.
Belding scored its most points and had its largest margin of victory in the same year. That came by way of a 78-0 season opening win in 1995.
In all, 50 of the games have been decided by two touchdowns or less. Five of Moore’s nine games have been decided by two touchdowns or less.
“That is a testament to how important the game is,” Moore said. “You know each team is going to give their best in that game. No matter what they have you will get their best game.”
Both coaches have games that stand out for various reasons.
“Game one was unbelievable because no one thought we had a chance to win,” Moore said. “We have had some pretty big games in my nine years here, but that has to be on top of the list. It started the whole thing for us.”
“The one that is fresh in my mind is this year’s game. We ended up on the wrong end, but it was a pretty incredible game,” Wilker said. “More than anything I remember moments, plays and the great efforts.”
With a rivalry lasting as long as this one memories are abundant for many. Greenville/Belding is a special game and special event. The rivalry will resume as always in game one in late August.
This time the memory making will continue at a new venue on the campus of Greenville High School. While the venue is different, the significance of this game will never change.