This & That: Area school rivalries

Who decided what a rivalry is? Was it the media? We are really good at pointing you to the big match-ups.

Over the years, Bellows Falls and Springfield have been labeled rivals, Fall Mountain and Stevens, Black River and Green Mountain, and Leland & Gray most likely would also consider Green Mountain their biggest rival.

When I began writing this column, I went to my olde friend Webster, who has been with me for 54 years, but the dictionary let me down. Miriam said that a rivalry was “one of two striving to reach or obtain something that only one can possess.” It also referred to a competition. Every game a team plays fits that definition, so obviously a rival is every team you play. So, that’s when I put the idea of rivalry back to the media because they introduced me and probably most of you to what I consider to be rivalries.

The local rivalries have been mentioned, but I know rivalries of the sports world are all over the place. Red Sox and Yankees, Celtics and Lakers, Bruins and Canadiens, Patriots and…

Now there is an interesting one. Who is the Patriots’ rival? If I had to answer, I would say the Steelers because they have had the most important games. But because the Patriots are in the fight to the end most every year and the competition can always be different, their rival is kind of fickle and changes. Today, you might say the Chiefs were their rival, but they played the Rams a couple of times in the Super Bowl and can you have a #DeflateGate without a rival? So add, the Colts. I texted some friends and they added the Dolphins, Jets, and Ravens too. That’s strange.

I felt bad for Green Mountain when I found out they could have two rivals. Both Black River and Leland & Gray were mentioned as rivals and no one has to be reminded that rivals get up sky high when they play each other. You know how everyone says you can throw out the records when you play your rivals? Well, those big games often have more upsets than others. If you have more than one rival, more teams are getting up to play you.

I decided to call around about rivals. Leland & Gray is still the new kid on our block so I wasn’t sure how they really felt. Peter Boyle was my first thought because he had loads of success in his time as a Rebel. He won a title as a player in 1977 and then as a coach in 1988. His immediate answer threw me, but after thinking a second, it made all kinds of sense. He quickly said, “West Rutand.”

West Rutland? Oh I get it. The Golden Horde was Boyle’s major rival in his sport, basketball. Several times during his playing and coaching tenure at Leland & Gray they met in the playoffs, including both championship games. I certainly get that. Springfield and Fall Mountain were considered rivals when I coached at Bellows Falls; but because we fought tooth and nail with Windsor many seasons for both league and state titles, they were rivals too.

The Rebels girls basketball coach Terry Merrow gave me a “That’s a good question,” response when I tossed the rivalry quiz to him. “I graduated from Green Mountain so I don’t really look at it that way. I listen to what the kids say and they seem to think Bellows Falls is in basketball.”

Of course, for years Bellows Falls was not on the schedule, but in recent years, they have been, so go figure. Merrow also said, “I think it might be Twin Valley in soccer and Green Mountain in soccer, but I’m not sure.”

Since time began, Bellows Falls and Springfield have been rivals. Although they are not competitive in many sports today, they still are archrivals and compete in almost everything. Most years, scores are not close, with one school dominating in one sport and the other in another. That was all forgotten when the girls’ teams competed in a playoff game in late winter in Riverside. Anyone at that game had a taste of what it was like in the Good Old Days.

Long time coaches Jayne Barber and Bis Bisbee keep track of the recent goings on, but both feel unquestionably, “It has to be Springfield,” when the question was posed to them. They both also felt Fall Mountain was also a rival with Barber adding, “Players always competed against each other in middle school and other ways. They knew each other and that made it a rivalry.”

Bisbee said, “They were just natural rivals in both cases with CVL and the MVL creating those nearby rivalries.”

When I called Andy Bladya, Springfield’s rec. director and softball coach, I wondered what he would say because Bellows Falls has not been competitive with the Cosmos in softball in so long I can’t remember. He hesitantly answered, “You would have to say it still has to be Bellows Falls. There’s other teams that become important games, but Bellows Falls is our chief rival.”

Brian Rapanotti, the Chieftains boys’ basketball coach, played at Springfield, and he said, “There’s no question, Bellows Falls is Springfield’s number one rival.”

Fall Mountain kind of sees Bellows Falls as a rival too, but Athletic Director Gordon Danserau says, “It isn’t like it use to be because we only play in boys basketball and softball now, but the fans turn out for those games showing there is still something there. Stevens has to be our number one rival. Monadnock, especially in girls’ basketball can be big too, but the crowds for all our games with Stevens show clearly what that rivalry is.”

Turning to Green Mountain, Rapanotti said, “It still has to be Black River. I know the kids know each other and point to that game. Leland & Gray has its importance too, but Black River is the rivalry.”

Black River Athletic Director Joe Gurdak gets the last word this week as he says, “Green Mountain always has been and always will be, for one more year, our main rival.”

Since Black River will close, that will end this longtime rivalry. Gurdak gladly notes, “The rivalry has changed. The two teams didn’t use to like each other, but now it has become a much friendlier rivalry. Many of them work together on the mountain, and with social media and all, you can call it a friendly rivalry.”


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