Ripon and Lawrence players meet near midfield before the prayer.
Ripon and Lawrence players meet near midfield before the prayer.

   “Such playing will kill football ... if Ripon or football must die, we are sorry, but it ought to be Ripon.”

   Those were among the words written in a column that appeared in Lawrence’s college newspaper, The Lawrentian, in 1896 referring to the rivalry between the Ripon College and Lawrence football teams.

  An Appleton Post Crescent article added that the Vikings would have won by more than 23-6 in 1901, but that on two occasions “Lawrence men who had got clear away for a run down a clear field were tackled by spectators.”

   How times have changed.

   While no love has been lost between the teams, which play every year in Wisconsin’s oldest college football rivalry, there was a much different scene last week Saturday at Ingalls Field.

   After the Red Hawks’ 52-0 domination of the Vikings, their 19th-consecutive win in the series, Ripon head football coach Ron Ernst was approached by a Lawrence player as he was getting ready to address his team.

   “We’re getting together there at the end and one of their players [came up to me] ... I looked up I thought, ‘OK,’” Ernst said. “I was very taken back by this, not in a bad way ... I didn’t want this to turn into a negative thing certainly.”

   What the coach heard next was unexpected to say the least.

   The Viking player, Wyatt Lee, informed Ernst that if any of Ripon’s players were interested, they could join players from Lawrence who planned to pray at midfield later.

   Though caught off guard by the offer, Ernst was appreciative of the sophomore linebacker’s idea.

Read the full column, which includes the rareness of the gesture during Ernst's 28 years at the helm, in the Nov. 8, 2018 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.