Jags Bring Home The Bell


Photo courtesy of Frances Carothers-Gomez

The football team celebrates on the field after a hard fought victory over the Justice Wolves. This was a special game for the seniors because they got to bring the bell home for the first time in their high school careers.

The highly coveted bell has finally returned to Falls Church High School after the Jaguars lost it in 2019. FCHS beat Justice in the annual Bell Game at Justice High School. The Jaguars beat the Wolves 33-23.

Considered to be the most important game of the year, the Bell Game is a football game that has been played for the last 62 years between Justice High School and FCHS. It originated in 1959 after a Falls Church assistant principal left to become Justice’s first principal. Each year the teams compete for a bell and the game is played at the school that won the bell in the previous year’s game. According to former Jaguar football player and coach, Ryan Healy, the game has always been a fan favorite.

“As a coach in 2012 I knew we had a chance to win after losing the last few. Our leadership class coordinated a huge bonfire by the softball fields the night before the game,” said Healy. “I told the crowd to get really loud when Justice was in the huddle and at the line on offense. You could feel something special was brewing,” said Healy. “The next day the crowd was super loud and Justice had many “delay of game” penalties and miscommunications. We ended up winning 49-20.”

This year’s win was meaningful to the coaches, as well as the players. Coach Deontae Hargrove, Coach Tyler Reynolds, and Coach Max Gomez won the bell as student athletes at FCHS and as coaches. Hargrove and Reynolds both graduated in 2018 and held the bell all four years as players. Max Gomez graduated in 2021. Coach Jaxson Gomez also played football at FCHS, graduating in 2022.

“Me being a Falls Church alumni I’ve kind of grown into the ranks of believing that the Bell Game is the biggest game of the year. You have to win that game before you win any other game on the schedule, no matter what, regardless of the sport,” said Hargrove. “Over the last couple years being away from Falls Church, away from sports, I wasn’t too enriched in it. But, that fire and that passion has definitely come back all within a year’s time just being here as a coach.” According to Coach Reynolds the Bell Game has historically been a competitive game.

  “My senior year we were a very strong team and were beating a majority of the teams we played by at least 2 scores. Not the Bell Game though,” said Reynolds. “We were tied going into half time and in the 3 years us seniors were at FC we never lost that bell. We came out in the second half and scored 25 unanswered points with a final score of 44-19.” Similar to 2017, this year’s game was hard fought.

This year’s game was settled in the fourth quarter with both teams exchanging scores throughout the game, until it was 25-23 going into the fourth quarter. The offense made it a two possession game after running back Santana Euell (10) scored a rushing touchdown and quarterback Caleb West (11) ran the ball in for a successful 2 point conversion, putting the Jaguars up 10. The defense then clinched the victory after two fourth quarter fumble recoveries. 

“Winning the bell back for FC was one of my top accomplishments of the season,” said wide receiver and cornerback Damon Kennard (12). “In my underclassmen years watching the seniors lose the Bell Game was very personal and upsetting to them, and I simply didn’t want to lose it my senior year and leave out any regrets.” 

Over 130 fans came to support the team, approximately 60 of which were FCHS students. Per tradition the FCHS student section participated in a White Out, with all the FCHS fans dressed in white, and the Justice student section dressed all in black for a Black Out.

“The Justice side was packed, there were so many people cheering for our downfall,” said outside linebacker Moises Gomez (12). “This rivalry has been a big motivation for me. Having the ability to play in it and win it is surreal. The Bell is back where it belongs.”