SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Two days before they renew one of the biggest football rivalries on the Central Coast, select players from Righetti and Pioneer Valley high schools met for lunch on Wednesday afternoon.
The luncheon is an annual tradition between the two football teams from the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District.
For about two hours, a handful of senior players from both teams, as well as leaders at both schools and the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District, attended a luncheon at Cool Hand Luke's restaurant in Santa Maria.
"It's nice to meet the other team because everybody is friends around in this town," said Pioneer Valley senior receiver/cornerback Elias Giddings. "It's cool to go and eat with your friends even though they're wearing different colors."
"It's a very cool thing," said Righetti senior lineman Darrell Twisselman. "Not a lot of other teams get to be able to do this, so I think this is a really nice opportunity. Look forward to meeting more people and telling stories with PV."
The social gathering is part of the lead-up to the annual "Battle of the Helmet" game that is set to take place at Righetti High School on Friday, Sept. 1.
Located just seven miles apart, the two campuses and football programs have shared many common bonds since Pioneer Valley opened up in 2004.
After Pioneer Valley was established, a new tradition was formed between the two teams, the "Battle of the Helmet," which is a perpetual trophy that goes to the winning side.
One half of the helmet is painted in Pioneer Valley black and its Panther logo, with the other half painted in Righetti purple and its school "W" logo. There are stickers with the each year printed on them that are placed on the winning side.
Over the years, the teams have played 16 times. Righetti currently leads the all-time series 11-5, including the past five games.
Last season, Righetti beat Pioneer Valley 39-13 to keep the helmet for a fifth straight year.
The last Pioneer Valley victory came in 2016. The teams play annually, but paused the match-up in the pandemic shortened spring 2021 season.
The "Battle of the Helmet" is scheduled to take place on Friday, Sept. 1 at Righetti High School.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
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