Battles Without Borders: The Apple Valley/Eastview Rivalry
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No matter the sport, the most memorable match-ups always seem to come from competition between rivals. These battles are often sustained for many years, sometimes even generations. Duke and North Carolina have eleven NCAA men’s basketball titles between them, and twice a year the college basketball world focuses on Durham and Chapel Hill. The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have won 35 combined World Series, and games between the two have featured players like Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, and Derek Jeter. On a more global scale, “El Clasico”, a soccer match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, draws about 400 million fans twice a year.
Perhaps one of the most competitive and well-known rivalries in the Twin Cities is between Apple Valley and Eastview. Their rivalry was born in 1997, when Eastview opened as the second high school in Apple Valley. In the beginning, it seemed almost every step of the process of creating a new school was subject to disagreement: from the name of the new school to the location. Nonetheless, the school was built, and students living on the east side of Galaxie Avenue were no longer in the Apple Valley attendance area, but that of Eastview.
Naturally, a crosstown rivalry was created, and sports became the dominant proving ground for students of both schools. Perhaps the most popular of these rivalry match-ups came in one of the most visible sports in high school athletics – football.
At the time of Eastview’s formation in 1997, Apple Valley was a significant force in Minnesota high school football, having won state championships in 1986 and 1993. The AVHS team at that time benefitted from the fact that there were only three high schools in the district, and only one in Apple Valley. This allowed the Eagles to collect all of the best talent the city had to offer and form the best team possible.
However, once Eastview opened, younger talent was split into two schools, and both schools felt the squeeze. Eastview, as a new school with limited enrollment, struggled to create a team that would be competitive in the Lake Conference. This was especially clear in Eastview’s first year, as there were no seniors in the school. The Lightning suffered an 0-9 campaign in 1997, but were able to right the ship in ‘98, taking second place in the conference, according to the Eastview football website. However, Eastview did not record its first victory over Apple Valley until 2000, when the Lightning won 28-6.
Since 2000, Eastview has dominated the rivalry, capturing a rather impressive 14-5 record against Apple Valley. In more recent years, the game has evolved to be more than just an on field competition. In 2012, the game was advertised as the “Battle for the Apple”, and focused on raising money for KARE-TV’s Randy Shaver and his “Tackle Cancer” fund.
The “Battle for the Apple” has since become one of the most recognizable and competitive rivalries in Minnesota high school football. Both schools’ student sections sport neon t-shirts sold as part of the fundraising effort, and a trophy reminiscent of the NFL’s Lombardi Trophy was created as the symbol of the game. Former Apple Valley athletic director and current assistant principal Pete Buesgens said, “I think [the Tackle Cancer program] showed how two schools can really want to get after each other and win games, but also work together for a good cause.”
Eastview soundly controlled the newly minted game from its establishment in 2012 to 2014. However, in 2015, the Eagles won their first Battle for the Apple in a low scoring shootout, 7-6. Then in 2016, Apple Valley followed the victory up with a 42-41 thriller in which Apple Valley receiver Luke Martens tied a Minnesota State High School League single-game record with five receiving touchdowns.
Unfortunately, beginning next fall, Apple Valley and Eastview are not scheduled to play each other for at least two years, due to state-mandated redistricting. The “Battle for the Apple” may be resumed as part of nonconference play. Until then, it appears the trophy will reside in Apple Valley High School until at least 2019.
Thankfully, there are many other arenas in which to enjoy the Apple Valley-Eastview rivalry. Arguably one of the greatest contests between the two rivals came not on the gridiron, but on the hardwood in the 2011-2012 season of boys’ basketball.
The section final game had been highly touted for weeks, as both Apple Valley and Eastview had a legitimate shot to make the state tournament and advance far. Apple Valley was led by sophomore phenom Tyus Jones, while Eastview was headed by 6’ 9” forward and future Minnesota Golden Gopher Joey King.
The game drew such a crowd that the city fire marshal had to turn fans away at the door, while also asking some to leave. In an intense game in an electric atmosphere, King and the Lightning were able to overcome Jones’ elite performance.
Both King and Jones went on to become Division I basketball players, with King attending the U of M after a brief stint at Drake University, and Jones signing with Duke University as the #4 ranked player in the nation, according to ESPN.
Between the two schools, Jones is probably the most recognizable athletic alumni, having been named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2015 NCAA Final Four, in which he orchestrated a national title for Duke. He was then drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers before being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
In other sports, the results between the Apple Valley and Eastview have been more lopsided. Apple Valley is known as one of the premier wrestling programs in the nation, and has never lost a match to Eastview. Eastview’s dance team, on the other hand, has won numerous state titles in recent years, including capturing the 2016 and 2017 titles in both jazz and high kick. Eastview and Apple Valley have each won one state title in baseball: Apple Valley in 2006 and Eastview in 2012. Eastview girls’ basketball has become a powerhouse in its own right, having made it to the state tournament for the past six years, a run that included a state championship in 2014.
Boys’ soccer, a sport once synonymous with Apple Valley’s domination under longtime coach Chuck Scanlon, has recently seen AVHS’ neighbor to the east become successful, with the Lightning winning a state title in 2012 and finishing second in 2011 and 2013. Buesgens said,“Certainly each school has had an upper hand in different sports” which only serves to make the overall rivalry that much more exciting.
When asked what the Apple Valley-Eastview rivalry meant to him, Buesgens said, “Two programs that do things the right way, that love to beat one another, but in the end you have people shaking hands, giving hugs. It’s people they know. They want to win on both sides, but in the end, there is a mutual respect there between the two programs.”
Overall, the rivalry between Apple Valley and Eastview is one that has been competitive since its inception, but also represents the best of sports in camaraderie, teamwork, and respect. The rivalry between the two schools will only grow and add to its history as both schools compete for the title of “Best in Apple Valley.”