Officials, coaches and players from both Fullerton College and Santa Ana College set aside their bitter rivalry for a celebratory breakfast to commemorate the 99-year Key to the county tradition at the FC student center on Friday morning.
Longtime local broadcaster and Santa Ana College alumnus Ed Arnold emceed the event. Arnold holds the dubious distinction of being in both the FC and SAC Hall of Fame.
A common thread from all the speakers throughout the morning was the importance of keeping the rivalry going.
In recent years, the rivalry has been threatened due to the influx of local community colleges forcing leagues to disband or restructure.
Tim Byrnes, Hornets head football coach shared an anecdote about how much this game means to people around the community. Byrnes stopped by his local pizza place just last night and the owner happened to be a former Santa Ana football player who shrugged off his busy restaurant for a few minutes just to remind Byrnes that his team had beat FC back in the 90s.
The Hornets and Dons bragging rights game, originally called the Turkey Bowl, began in 1916. The game on Saturday evening at Shapell Stadium will mark their 93rd meeting all-time and 70th consecutive year the two teams have faced off.
Former mayor and longtime Hornet fan Chris Norby, officially changed the name of the rivalry to the “Key to the County” game in 1997. That year Hornet running back Tony Bushala, donated the annual trophy, which had originally hung in the front of his family’s restaurant for many years.
The Hornets hold the edge in the series 47-41-4 and have an eight-game winning streak going into Saturday’s contest. Byrnes has never lost a game to the Dons as the Hornets head coach.
“The thing about tradition and history is you just can’t buy it. You can’t go to Amazon.com and buy tradition and history,” said Scott Giles, Fullerton College athletic director. “You have to earn it over a period of time with people working really hard with blood, sweat and tears. Working hard to carry on this tradition.”