Talk to coaches and players for Permian and Odessa High football teams, current and former, and you’ll hear little about practical jokes or demoralizing pranks preceding one of the most personal annual rivalry games in high schoolfootball.
But some fans have a different story.
Anita Lang-O’Neal, who was a cheerleader at Permian in the late 1970s, said she remembers two incidents between students at the schools just days before the big rivalry game that really got the fans going.
In 1978, in the middle of the week before a game, Lang-O’Neal said some OHS students gained access to the Permian building overnight and painted the panther statue red, leaving a lasting tint even after the paint was cleaned off.
In a retaliatory effort, Permian students shot the live horse mascot for OHS, killing it.
“That was just a few people. We didn’t go to that extreme,” she said. “That was not an everyday occurrence.”
But was that real or legend?
Some commenters on the Facebook group “Remember in Odessa when...” shared their stories about pranks played between the two teams in the past.
DeAnne Walker Patman said Permian students stole the original OHS live horse mascot in the 1950s and painted it black, which killed it, although the rivalry game didn’t begin until 1959. She also said Permian students stole a headstone from a grave in the 1970s and painted “RIP OHS” on the front, placing it on the OHS lawn.
But many people remember a cleaner rivalry in the past, a tradition that continues today, including former Permian coach John Wilkins and former Permian quarterback Vic Vines.
“The point of that is they played us like it was the last game of their life, like we did,” Vines said. “I don’t think we realized the significance of the game from a city-wide standpoint.”
Others have heard the stories and believe they are just that – stories.
Billy Rumbaugh, a starting quarterback for OHS in the late 1970s, said he vaguely remembers hearing of the incidents, but said they were more accurately described as urban legends that somewhat taint a rivalry mostly filled with respect and lighthearted pranks.
He said he doesn’t know if pranks of that seriousness actually happened, but he was much more focused on the biggest games in his high school career.
“That was something we’d have to live with for the rest of our lives,” Rumbaugh said. He still gets ribbed for the four interceptions he threw during the rivalry game in his junior year. “I’m an old man now. It’s (no longer) blood and guts and all that."
GAME DAY TRAFFIC
Before the game, Odessa High fans are asked to enter eastbound on Yukon Road and for Permian fans to go north on Grandview Avenue from 52nd Street to enter the east gates and the main gate.
After the game, people leaving through the main gate will be diverted either east or westbound on Yukon Avenue; those leaving through the east gates will go south on north Grandview Avenue and vehicles leaving the north gate will go east and west on Charles Walker Road.
The police department also asks all people not going to the game to plan an alternate route and avoid roads leading to the stadium.