Don Lugo High football team

The Don Lugo High football team celebrates winning the 1988 Milk Can Trophy after a 24-7 win over Chino High. The 41st annual game was played Friday .

Kerry Cisneroz

Kerry Cisneroz

Memories of Chino's milk can football game

It's been a cross-town rivalry football game since 1980, and on March 26, 2021, Chino High School and Don Lugo High School battled it out once again for the prize of the coveted Milk Can trophy.  The annual event is typically held in the fall, but with COVID wreaking havoc on our school year, football season has just begun.  The game was not held in 2020 because of COVID restrictions, and the city has not had many sporting events to rally around.  Football in March is unconventional, but very much welcomed by a city much in need of sports!

Don Lugo High School sports booster club member Marv Ecklund’s idea of the Milk Can Game tradition in 1980 was intended to create a friendly rivalry between Chino's two high schools.  He silver plated one of his milk cans as a symbol of Chino's dairies, and presented it to the winning team for bragging rights.  The can is engraved with the name of and travels to the winning school each year.  The first two games were played at Chaffey College, and were then played at Chino High.  Don Lugo did not yet have their own football stadium to host the event.  The games are typically sold out, as the city fills the stadium to cheer on their favorite high school team.  

The stadium stands are a place to cheer and root for your team, as Chino’s school teachers and faculty mix with students during the games.  I remember my Don Lugo High School principal Dr. Patricia Mark attending, and how after our Conquistadors beat Chino High's Cowboys in the 1988 Milk Can game, she ran onto the field, into the pack of football players, and celebrated with them as they carried the milk can overhead.  At that moment, she was as proud as those players were for winning the game.  I was at the game as part of Don Lugo’s video production team, recording for the first ever Video Yearbook.  I stood on the field with my video camera aimed at the giant paper banner as the Don Lugo football players burst out and ran toward me, toppling me over and trampling me as ran by.  The recorded shot was amazing though – well worth being stepped on by cleated giants and leaving with grass stains on my face. 

Coach John Monger was Don Lugo’s football coach when the Milk Can game began in 1980, and the Conquistadores won seven straight games under his leadership, with the 1982-85 games being complete shutouts.  Chino High won their first Milk Can game when Monger moved across town and became Chino High’s football coach in 1987.

Each year the Cowboys and Conquistadores bring an excitement to the city as they compete for the priceless glistening silver Milk Can.  The Cowboys have won 24 games and the Conquistadores have won 16 of the 40 past games.  Will your team win this year?

Share your Chino memories and feedback by email at  Kerry Cisneroz, a longtime Chino Valley resident, enjoys sharing memories and nostalgia of the community, which can be found in his Facebook group, “Chino Memories – Yesterday & Today.”

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