Schools have battled for more than a century
The annual Brookfield-vs.-Marceline high school football "Bell Game" has won an online popularity contest hosted the nationally-distributed newspaper USA Today as the best high school football rivalry game in the United States.
The primarily-self-promotional endeavor – in which interested persons could vote an unlimited number of times – saw the century-old Linn County duel initially emerge first on a state basis, then on a regional basis to become one of four national finalists.
According to the paper's Dec. 20, 2012, edition, the "Bell Game" collected 1,761,259 online votes in the nearly-week-long, national round of final balloting, easily outdistancing the other regional finalists.
As a result of the designation, USA Today will present the two schools with a combined $10,000 prize to be split between evenly their athletics departments.
The schools' football teams have met on the gridiron annually for about 100 years with it gaining its "Bell Game" identity in the late 1930s when the 30-pounds brass bell from a retired Brookfield fire engine was suggested as a tangible "prize" for the winners of the game between the two Linn County rivals.
Perhaps best illustrating the value the schools and neighboring communities place on the game was Brookfield's willingness to considering forfeiting a Tri-Rivers Conference game in both 2004 and 2005 when scheduling, classification, and conference-play conflicts initially left no room on the BHS schedule for the game. A compromise by various parties was reached, allowing the game to continue uninterrupted.