Whoever decided to make the final week of the regular season rivalry week was a genius.
Rivalry week distracts us from the upsetting reality that the football season is over for some after this weekend, and will be for the rest of us too soon. And the added intensity helps us ramp up for the playoffs.
The only bad part about rivalries is we in the media have a tendency to rank them. Each is unique. Most are great. So no rankings here. Just a few thoughts on the most memorable ones I’ve covered.
Gone but not forgotten: Jay vs. Livermore Falls. At its peak, it was the quintessential Maine small-town football rivalry.
Gone but was it ever really here?: Mountain Valley vs. Cape Elizabeth. They made a good documentary about it (The Rivals), but this really wasn’t ever a rivalry in the truest sense. It had some bad blood, a lot of interesting people and a few great games and moments. But barely they played little more than a decade, and it started to feel inauthentic towards the end.
Never was, but coulda been: Leavitt vs. Mt. Blue. These two sure packed a lot into two seasons (2011-12). It doesn’t fit the duration definition of a rivalry, obviously, and they didn’t play in Week 8. But it had pretty much all of the other elements, including one of the all-time classic regional finals in 2011. It went by in a flash, but it sure was fun.
Definitely was and could be again: Dirigo vs. Mountain Valley. They’ve played one game (sorry, preseason doesn’t count). But you know and I know that this qualified instantly and would be buzzworthy again if and when it returns.
Route 9 pipeline: Lisbon vs. Oak Hill. In terms of program pedigree, this was lopsided when I first started covering it in the early 2000s. Yet Oak Hill always earned the more-decorated Greyhounds’ respect. That’s only been more evident on both sides since one of Lisbon’s own, Stacen Doucette, went to Wales and won three state titles in a row. And yet still one of the most physical games you’ll see all year.
The Frozen Tundra: Mt. Blue vs. Skowhegan. Instantly evokes images of these two slugging it out in a blinding snow squall at the old Caldwell Field. I can’t pin down the year. It’s probably happened more than once, anyway, and it could just as easily have been at Clark Field. It seems like there is always a lot riding on this game beyond bragging rights, too.
The Grandaddy of Central Maine: The Battle of the Bridge. Judging by crowd size alone over the past 18 years, the intensity ebbs and flows in the communities if not between the lines. But the atmosphere at Garcelon Field last year showed that when both cities really get behind it, it’s as good as it gets. Would packed houses this week at Walton Field and wherever next week happens be too much to ask?