Local football fans might want to circle September 4, 2020, on their calendars.
The third-oldest high school football rivalry in the state of Illinois is coming back.
Week 2 of the 2020 season will see the Ottawa Pirates take the 16-mile trip down Route 23 to visit the Streator Bulldogs for the old rivals' 97th overall head-to-head meeting and first varsity football contest since their Week 3 meeting at Ottawa's King Field on September 13, 2013.
Streator athletics director Kevin Wargo and Ottawa AD Mike Cooper confirmed the scheduling Wednesday. Streator will replace Woodstock in Week 2 on the Pirates' schedule. Ottawa will replace current Week 2 opponent Morton on the Bulldogs' schedule.
"We're very excited," said Cooper. "When you have communities as passionate about high school football as Streator and Ottawa which have played for over 100 years, it'll definitely be exciting to get back on the gridiron against Streator.
"The players' excitement, the fans, the booster clubs' sales — everything is multiplied five times when Ottawa and Streator play instead of Streator-Morton or Ottawa-Woodstock. These kids have played in everything since youth sports ... and I think it will be good for both schools and both communities."
Ottawa and Streator halted their gridiron rivalry after the 2013-14 school year when Streator left the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference to join the Interstate Eight. The two are both set to leave their current conference homes at the end of this school year — Ottawa leaving the NIB 12 to join a new-look, larger-school incarnation of the Interstate Eight; Streator leaving with seven other, smaller-school members of the current I-8 to form a new conference — but that wasn't a factor in the resumption of the rivalry, as both OHS and SHS have had Weeks 1 and 2 open for nonconference contests long before parting conference ways.
The current contract is for two years.
"It was a decision from our administration (to resume playing Ottawa), and I agree with it," Wargo said. "Even though we haven't played them in five years, we feel it's time to get them back on the schedule again and resume the rivalry.
"It should be fun."
While it has certainly felt odd not having a Streator-Ottawa football game on the schedule these past few seasons, not playing for stretches of time was a recurring factor in the Route 23 Rivalry's early years.
After the first meeting in 1895 — records say it was won by Streator, though no record of the score has been found — the next documented instance of an OHS-SHS varsity football game comes in 1911. The schools did not meet in 1914, 1918-19, 1922-26, 1931-33 and finally 1936 before beginning a stretch of playing at least one game (and in 1984 and 1985 two games) every season between 1937 and 2013. The lone asterisk over that period would be Ottawa's 2009 forfeit loss due to a teachers' strike.
Ottawa holds a 57-37-2 edge all-time against Streator, including winning 21 of 22 meetings between 1951 and 1972 and 10 straight between 1987 and 1996. Streator's longest winning streak was seven games, spanning 1917 to 1930.
Since then, though, the rivalry has been extremely competitive, with the Bulldogs winning seven of 13 meetings between 1997 and 2009 before the Pirates claimed the last four Route 23 rivalry games between 2010 and 2013, the last a 29-13 Pirates victory at King Field.