WHEELING - The No. 3-ranked Bishop Donahue football program has been portrayed most of the last decade or so, as the Loveable Losers. They're group that made up for a lack of talent with pure heart and guts, but always seemed to end up on the woefully wrong side of the scoreboard.
Sixth-ranked Wheeling Central, meanwhile, won six West Virginia Class A state championships during the 2000s and has taken on the severely misguided moniker of 'The Evil Empire.' The Maroon Knights are to prep football what Notre Dame is to the college scene - you either love 'em or hate 'em.
The two schools from supposed different sides of the proverbial tracks are going to settle this the old-fashioned way, tonight on the football field.
Wheeling Central plays a long-awaited game against Bishop Donahue tonight at 7:30 at Monarch Stadium in Moundsville.
The site: John Marshall's Monarch Stadium.
The time: 7:30 p.m.
At stake: We don't have enough space in this paper to get into all of that, but we'll dabble anyway.
For starters, the winner keeps alive its dream of a state title with a berth in the semifinals opposite the No. 7 Matewan-No. 2 Meadow Bridge winner.
That one, of course, is obvious.
On a bigger scale, however, you might have heard about the major decision made Tuesday by the Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.
Despite its revival in most sports, Bishop Donahue has been operating under a black cloud of uncertainty, facing the very real possibility of closure. But the Most Rev. Michael J. Bransfield, in announcing the groups findings, notified the two communities that both Bishop Donahue and Wheeling Central will continue to operate for at least the next two years.
But what the decision in fact does, is begins a competition between the two schools to see who can raise the most funding, and thus remain operational. Bishop Donahue will be challenged to close the $150,000 gap in its annual budget and a loan debt of $1.19 million. Central Catholic will be challenged to close the $200,000 gap in its annual budget and loan debt of $1.34 million.
The Ohio Valley Athletic Conference statistics show Bishop Donahue with 121 students, while Wheeling Central is listed with 241. According to people a lot more in the know than myself, one of those - Bishop - is seeing an increase in enrollment, and the other - Central - has recently seen a decrease.
Here's where the outcome of this game comes in.
You and I both know there are parents out there - far too many, actually - who send their children to schools who either A) have a great athletic tradition, or B) give their children the best chance to show their athletic talents, and thus be more visible to college recruiters.
The upperhand in tonight's game could sway the feelings of some. More students equates to more money, which gets you closer - or farther - to paying of the debt.
Is this a far-fetched theory? Perhaps.
But it's also probably closer to reality than a lot of people would care to believe.
Shawn Rine can be reached via e-mail at Rine@theintelligencer.net