Before Belleville West and before Althoff, there was Belleville Township High School and Cathedral High School.
In 1933, when the football series between the city rivals began, no one was sure what to expect. The much anticipated event was played on a Saturday just a few days before Belleville was scheduled to play arch-rival East St. Louis in the annual Thanksgiving Day game.
According to a game story from the Belleville News-Democrat, Ralph Heisler ran for a touchdown, threw a TD pass and caught another as the "Maroon Devils" defense limited Cathedral to just 57 yards and three first downs in a 19-0 victory.
Cathedral's defense also played well, keeping Belleville out of the end zone several times. But Belleville had 293 yards of total offense to just 53 for Cathedral, including 192 yards rushing to just 26 for their rivals.
Or as the News-Democrat sportswriter explained in the opening paragraph:
"Victorious in the first athletic engagement between Belleville's two high schools, Coach Edgar Gunderson's Township High football stalwarts today wore the crown of city champions by virtue of a 19-0 triumph at the expense of Cathedral High."
The story had the "heavier Maroon Devils playing on their own gridiron before a goodly crowd," and Belleville won "despite this unexpectedly stubborn resistance by the weaker and comparatively inexperienced Blue and Gold eleven. ..."
Belleville took the lead with a little razzle-dazzle. Heisler took the snap from center, then threw a pass to the tight end, who caught the ball and -- in mid-air, mind you --fired the ball quickly to Fred Honer.
According to the article, "this warrior swung wide around end and sprinted like a hare down the sideline for a touchdown."
Despite a decided advantage in yardage, Belleville encountered a tough defense and led only 6-0 heading into the fourth quarter. The Maroon Devils added two late TDs by Heisler to put the game out of reach.
Belleville finished the 1933 season 4-6, losing 6-0 to East St. Louis in the final game. That marked the fifth time the Maroon Devils were shut out that season, but thanks to a stout defense Belleville still outscored its opponents 70-52 in 10 games.
At that time, Belleville played in the same conference with East St. Louis, Edwardsville, Alton, Wood River, Madison, Granite City and Collinsville.