Name a high school trophy more imposing, bigger, than the Cross Saw. Sorry, can’t be done. Friday night, at Galena High School, two teams will battle for the right to play host to the legendary Cross Saw for another year.
Raising Cane's and SilverBlu Signs & Media are proud sponsors of the annual “Battle for the Cross Saw” game between Galena and Damonte Ranch high schools. The real force behind the game is Joe Lawrence; Lawrence is a part of the Grizzlies staff and was a part of Damonte's staff for years. It was Lawrence who resurrected the story and the saw, breathing new life into a storied south Reno rivalry.
The Battle for the Cross Saw is an old Truckee Meadows legend, going back to the late 1800s and the first landowners here in south Reno. The Brown Ranch, sold to Louis Damonte in 1940, was established by Peleg Brown just along the outskirts of Galena, a small mining & lumber community in 1858. Legend has it that in order to build the Brown Ranch’s outbuildings, a massive 120-pound cross saw was purchased from the Galena Town Mill. When Galena suffered a large town fire, the town founders asked to buy the cross saw back. Being a sporting man, instead of selling the impressive, two-man saw, Brown proposed a challenge to compete for the ownership of the saw for a year. A crosscut competition was held and after tremendous effort from both sides, it was the Galena Lumberjacks (should Galena High School’s mascot been the Lumberjacks) that prevailed. The competition continued for years before fading into memory but was renewed in 2014.
In 2014, the Mustangs won the coveted prize, 41-0, led by sophomore quarterback Drake Vestbie who threw three touchdown passes and junior running back Sam Banghart who rushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns. The Grizzlies snatched the Cross Saw back the next year, beating Damonte, led by junior running back Jake Berger’s 171 yards (and one touchdown). The Cade McNamara era was in full effect the next three years, Damonte regained the Cross Saw in 2016, then kept it in 2017 and 2018. In 2019, the starting quarterback for Damonte was junior Ethan Kulpin who threw for 253 yards and four touchdowns in a 51-9 victory.
Kulpin and company did it again in 2020, 40-0, propelled to victory by senior running back Carson Smith’s three touchdowns and 178 yards. The next year the Mustangs outscored the Grizzlies 46-8. Senior quarterback Cooper Anderson made it 2-0 in his Cross Saw efforts last year, defeating the Grizzlies 56-12 in one of the most complete games the Mustangs had last season.
Going into this week’s game, both sides are desperate for a win and to take the Cross Saw home. Damonte’s season started with such promise, opening up 2-0 before losing to Truckee and Douglas. Galena, seeking to build momentum on the back of last year’s playoff season, come in 1-3. They opened the season with an impressive 24-0 opening night win at the expense of Spring Creek, then dropped a tough one to Yuba City (CA) and a loss to Fallon followed.
The Grizz are coached by Aaron Cook, a graduate of Damonte Ranch who was a part of Shawn Dupris’ staff before making the move to Galena. Other former Mustangs have joined Coach Cook at Galena, a team many believe capable of winning the Northern 5A III division. The Grizzlies have some serious talent:
Ben Imse, junior, averaging 51.5 yards per game receiving
Colson Kermode, junior, averaging 79 yards per game on the ground to go with three touchdown passes
Joseph Czyz, senior, plays both ways and has four touchdowns on the season
Matt Ritenhouse, senior, 11.5 tackles per contest
Jameson Bogart, senior, 4.5 sacks this season
Tyler Miller, senior, a 6’4” 295 pound 3-star offensive lineman with multiple D1 offers, committed to the Nevada Wolf Pack
Damonte has playmakers on both sides of the ball, like Amari Nash. Nash is a sophomore wideout and cornerback in the mold the University of Colorado’s Travis Hunter. Nash is averaging 9.2 yards per catch and is a threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball. But it is the run game that fuels Damonte’s offense and they have a number of terrific running backs:
DJ Gonzalez-Brown, senior, 86 yards per game, five touchdowns
Kobe Craig, junior, 73.5 yards per game, two touchdowns
Alan Limas-Nunez, junior, 76.5 yards per game, four touchdowns
On the defensive side, the Mustangs are led by senior sack machine Braelen Toles. The senior has moved into the top ten all-time Nevada sack count with five and a half sacks this season, but Toles has more to his game than sacks, he has 28 tackles this season, seven per game, good for second on the team behind junior linebacker Carsen Galvin’s 8.5 tackles per game. The Mustangs are led by Ty Gregg, it is Gregg’s second year as the head coach for the Mustangs.
The game takes place Friday night at Galena High School, 7:00 PM kickoff, but get there early to get a decent parking spot and seat in the stands; these games tend to fill-up. Keep an eye on both cheer squads; Damonte’s cheer team is coming off another USA Cheer National Title and Galena’s cheer team has risen in the rankings and could push for a place at Nationals this year as well. The Galena band is always entertaining, and the weather forecast could not be better with a high of 82 degrees Friday, which should make the temperature at kickoff around 74 degrees. Stick around after the game because immediately following the end of the contest, the Cross Saw will be awarded to the winning side.
Big thanks to Galena Coach Joe Lawrence for continuing to drive this contest, along with SilverBlu Signs & Media, and Raising Cane’s for their sponsorship.
About Your Author - Lynn Ault covers high school athletics for Battle Born Preps. When not covering high school sports, he can found working with middle and high school students at Hope Community, a non-denominational church in south Reno.