A tradition that ended almost as fast as it started is returning to Farmington.
The Farmington and Piedra Vista high schools rivalry is as good as they come, but something has been missing since the two schools first clashed at Hutchison Stadium in 2000: a trophy that symbolizes the matchup.
This year, the trophy returns.
It all started in 2000 when the two schools came together to start a yearly tradition. The prize was an antique milk can, painted green on one side for the Farmington Scorpions, and blue on the other for the Piedra Vista Panthers.
Booster clubs at the two schools hosted a dinner for the two teams the Thursday before the game. The next night, Piedra Vista defeated Farmington 17-6 and became the first team to take home milk can. Each player on the winning team received a carton of milk donated by a local company to drink as the milk can was presented. PV went on to finish the season as state runner-ups with coach Wilson Wilhite leading the team.
"We did the dinner at PVHS, and it went real well. All the kids in town know one another, so it was a good atmosphere for the players. It helped get the fans fired up, too," Wilhite said in a phone interview Wednesday from Vian, Okla. where he coaches Vian High, a 2A school that is 10-0 the third consecutive season. "The milk can was donated by someone in Farmington for the winner of the game. We won the first ball game, and we had the milk can."
What happened to the milk can trophy after that game is still a mystery. It disappeared from the Piedra Vista campus and hasn't been seen since.
"It only lasted one year, but it was a really neat thing," said Randy Jackson, who was an assistant coach on the 2000 Farmington High team under head coach Tom Lynch. "It only happened the one time because the milk can got stolen right out of the front office of PV. When it got stolen, I couldn't believe it. One school blamed it on the other and so forth."
"None of that matters now, but it broke the tradition after only one year," Lynch continued. "It was a great idea to try to bring tradition between the two schools, and I wish something like that was still going on. It would be one heck of a deal."
Piedra Vista went on to win five more games in the rivalry, while Farmington won seven. But the victor only got bragging rights.
Now in the rivalry's 14th year, the milk can trophy is back.
Both teams won their games a week ago, setting up a district championship scenario in the final week of the regular season. And that's when I set out to create a traveling trophy for the winner of the annual rivalry game.
I had watched as Belen and Valencia fans tweeted about competing for a plow that has become the symbol of their rivalry game. I also learned of the battle for a canon called "the Rebel" in the Clovis and Hobbs rivalry and the Chile Bowl game between Las Cruces and Mayfield.
That only solidified my belief that something was missing in Farmington's football rivalry. We needed something extra to motivate the fan bases.
I sent out a tweet asking for suggestions on trophy ideas. One fan suggested a trophy shaped like an apple, a nod to the area's apple orchard history. Another said the trophy should look like a golden drill bit to represent the local oil and gas industry.
Later that night, I learned about the milk can and its history.
From there, it was obvious what I needed to do. It was time to bring back the can and give the rivalry its name back: The Legacy Game.
It didn't take long to find the milk can. After a quick look around Pack Rats Antiques in Aztec, I found just what I was looking for. A few coats of paint and two helmet stickers later, a trophy was born.
People who remember the old can are happy to see its return.
"I think it is real unique. The Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns play for the Golden Hat, and a lot of people have trophies they trade back and forth depending on the winner. I think that is what PV and FHS ought to have," Wilhite said.
The trophy will be awarded to the winner of the game each year. That school will keep the trophy until the next time the two teams play.
I handed off the milk can to Farmington High's seniors on Wednesday night at Hutchison Stadium. The Scorps, who won the game last year, will bring the can onto the field Friday night.
"It is a trophy, and I see glory out of this," said Brian Farley, an FHS running back and linebacker. "You win it this year, and you win the title and bragging rights."
Farmington leads the series seven games to six. Many current FHS seniors are responsible for a couple of the years painted onto the milk can and have helped lead the Scorpions to four consecutive wins in the rivalry.
But the Piedra Vista seniors want to leave their mark on the can this year.
"It is a big crosstown rivalry, and I am ready to bring this jug home," said PV senior running back and wide receiver Beau Clafton, who said he has seen pictures of the milk can from 2000 in PV head coach Jared Howell's office. "Anytime we come back to PV, we will see that '13 on there and know we contributed to a legacy."
So now the can is back. All that is left to do is sit back and enjoy the game and see which team can bring it home.
And hopefully, the milk can lasts longer than a year this time.
"It is pretty cool that we are doing this now with the district championship on the line," said Farmington wide receiver and defensive back Kyle Reynolds. "We will get this thing started again and make it an ongoing tradition."John Livingston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.