Madison’s east side is a huge and diverse area, but no matter what neighborhood of the east side you may be from, you are part of one big eastside family that rallies around something called “Eastside Pride.” But like brothers in a happy family, eastsiders sometimes fight and they sometimes go at it pretty hard which can get pretty heated and chippy. That will most likely happen tonight at Breese Stevens Field as two teams that know each other very well – Madison East and Madison La Follette – go at it in East’s homecoming varsity football game.
Did I say “like brothers”? Actual brothers will be facing off tonight at 7 p.m.
“Madison East versus Madison La Follette is a pretty big rivalry. We play for the Lussier Cup which is a trophy that travels between the two schools,” says Troy Dean, an assistant coach for Madison La Follette. “This is a fun game for me, personally, because my brother Charles is on the other side and my nephew [C.J. Dean] is a running back and linebacker for the Purgolders. It’s always bittersweet to have to coach against him but I get to watch him play at the same time.”
Troy Dean coaches tight ends for Madison La Follette High School. His brother Charles Dean is the strength and conditioning coach for Madison East and his son, C.J., is one of the Purgolders’ star players – a standout linebacker who also plays running back, kicks and punts.
“It’s gonna be what it’s gonna be,” Charles Dean tells Madison365. “La Follette has kind of gotten the upper hand on us the past couple games but they’ve been nail-biters … they’ve been really close. I don’t think this one is going to be any different. I think the teams match-up pretty well with each other. The kids all know each other. The practices have been a little chippier and the smack talk has started a little earlier this week.
But how has the smack talk been between the brothers this week?
“It used to be much more,” Charles Dean laughs. “My son has played varsity since he was a freshman and it’s just one of those things where things were chippy in the beginning but as everybody matures and grows into their coaching positions and grows into being a more mature player it’s not about all the talking it’s about: Can I back up how I feel on the field?
“In the beginning, when family would be sitting around together at Thanksgiving or a holiday, there would be much more smack talk because my brother was younger, newer coach and my son was younger player,” he adds. “I’ve always been the guy that says, ‘Let’s everybody shut up. It will play itself out on the field.’ But over the years, that’s calmed down.”
The origins of the great East/La Follette rivalry starts at the elementary school level.
“There’s a lot of bragging rights for these kids. I’ve coached in the elementary schools and middle school level also and the kids all play together at Warner Park – eastsiders, northsiders. But what happens is as soon as they are out of middle school, they have to make a decision – they have to decide,” Charles Dean says. “Am I going to go to East or am I going to go to La Follette? Some of that is based upon district, some of it is based upon who has a better basketball program or football program or track. Or, if an older brother went there.
“A lot of the kids that play sports on the east side start off together and then they get divided,” Charles Dean adds. “At that point, some kids may be viewed as a traitor … it can get a little crazy. Ultimately, they all want to be together, though. They are like, ‘Man, if we didn’t have to separate and we could just have one team like a Middleton or a Verona, we would always be in the playoffs.’ But we have to make a choice. So I think the rivalry really stems from having to be separated.”
Troy Dean went to Madison East for his freshman year until the middle of his junior year before transferring to La Follette and graduating from there. He played football and ran track. Charles Dean was a star running back for Madison La Follette.
“I remember being in Glendale Elementary School and teachers coming up to me and telling me how good of running back my brother was,” says Troy Dean, who is five years younger. “I’ve always gone to his games and watched him. A lot of people had Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson, Walter Payton as their idols … I had my older brother as a hero. I really looked up to him when it came to sports and the way he conducted himself off the field.”
Charles Dean went on to be an all-Conference, all-City Player of the Year as a running back for Madison La Follette going to the Shrine Bowl in 1989 and leading the game in rushing.
“We were born into football. Out dad was a big football fan,” Charles Dean says. “We were a well-rounded household with good academic support with the balance of sports. My dad always had football on.
“Me, personally, I started off playing soccer and a couple guys in my neighborhood had a little football game going on and I got tackled and that was it,” Charles Dean adds. “It was exciting. That was it.”
Troy Dean has been in the education field for many, many years and a longtime coach. On top of that, he is also the founder and owner of Daze Entertainment Basketball, a team of talented streetball players that has shared their unique talents at assembly, charity, and fundraiser games around the state.
“I love the giving back aspect of coaching. Of course, I love the sport of football and I love coaching and being able to give back whatever knowledge I have to those young men on the football field,” he says. “Football is a great sport. It’s camaraderie. It’s teamwork. It’s all of the players and all of the coaches as one working towards a goal. It’s a beautiful thing to see.”
Beyond working with young athletes in the mornings and afternoons as strength and conditioning coach at East High, Charles Dean is a business owner at two martial arts schools that has put him in the school district where he does a lot of community work.
Both brothers are lifetime eastside Madisonians dedicated to working with and mentoring young people.
“We both want our teams to win, but at the end of the day it’s all about helping the young men on the football team grow on and off the field,” Troy Dean says. “We both take pride in being people in the community who are coaches as well as mentors to young men and young women.”
“Our efforts extend well beyond what we do for our jobs. We’re community guys and we hope to be good role models and set good examples,” Charles Dean says.
In that way, everybody is a winner whether it be young players from Madison East or Madison La Follette. But for the actual East/La Follette rivalry game, both brothers know that there will be only one winner.
“There will be guys out there who leave it all out on the field on both teams. They make us proud,” says Charles Dean. “I want to see a good, clean, hard-hitting, fair, fun game tonight. A true eastside battle.”
“It’s a rivalry that goes back further than me and further than him,” Troy Dean says. “I will take pride in the Lancers getting the victory tonight. Our head coach Scott Swanson does a good job of preparing for each individual team that we face.
“Yes, it’s a huge rivalry game. But at the end of the night when the game is over, I hug my nephew and tell him I love him. He’s my oldest nephew and I’m proud of him,” he adds. “I give my brother a big hug, too. At the end of the day, it’s family.”