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BOTA Rivalry Vanishes in School Kitchen

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Sherman ISD and Denison ISD share a storied football rivalry that spans over a century. The Battle of the Ax (BOTA) football rivalry began in 1901 and became a tradition for both communities and schools. It is the longest continuous rivalry among all high schools in the state of Texas.

Denison Chef Throughout the year, Grayson County is counting down to the date of BOTA and it's circled on every Bearcat and Yellow Jacket fan's calendar in the fall. 

"If you're from Sherman or Denison, you know about the Battle of the Ax rivalry. You know what it means to this community, and you know that you must root hard for your home team. It's an exciting week throughout our district, and you can feel the Bearcat pride in our food service department," SISD Food Service Director Mandy Stephens said. 

However, earlier this school year, when COVID-19 left a Sherman ISD campus kitchen staff shorthanded, the rivalry vanished between the two schools, and the DISD Food Service Department offered their Bearcat neighbors a helping hand. Proving that although the BOTA rivalry exists between the schools, both communities assist each other at a moment's notice.

"Once our director found out the situation in one of Sherman's kitchens, she asked if I would go work a few days in SISD to help their kitchen staff. I told her absolutely," exclaimed Denison ISD's Chef Manager Alicia Rivera, who didn't hesitate to assist the rival staff. 

Chef The first year DISD chef is excited to experience her first Battle of the Ax game this week. She started her culinary career at Baylor University, working as a cook and baker. Rivera completed her degree in Culinary of Arts and Business Management and was more than willing to utilize her skills to help the SISD Food Service Department.

"We were in a situation where we needed someone knowledgeable about the school food service process to help us on short notice," Sherman ISD Chef Jodee Whitehouse explained. "Alicia is an experienced chef who not only knows her way around a kitchen but displays the highest standards in customer service and organization. We were happy to have her lend us her skills for a few days," she said.  

Despite this week's BOTA rivalry, Rivera reflects warmly on her time assisting the SISD food service department.

"I love a good rivalry, but I had an amazing experience with the Sherman staff," said Rivera. "The entire department is welcoming, and I'd do it again without hesitation because everyone was very friendly."

Thursday, September 24, marks the 122nd match up between Sherman and Denison, which started in 1901 and the 72nd BOTA game between the two schools, which officially began in 1949. Although the football field meeting will be different from the meetings that took place in the campus kitchen with the Sherman and Denison chefs, the heart and pride of Grayson County will be on display.Chef

"The great news is that our staff members have returned, and on Thursday night, the rivalry between Sherman and Denison will continue. But, as soon as the game is over, the SISD Food Service Department looks forward to working with DISD again," said Whitehouse. "It was wonderful to work alongside Chef Rivera and welcome her to Bearcat country. If they call us and need a favor, we will be right there to help. That's what this rivalry is all about."

For more information on this year’s BOTA game, visit


Jasmine Baker