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Hancock, Berkeley Springs have storied football history

November 04, 1998|By BILL STERNER / Staff Correspondent

HANCOCK - Only 10 short miles of lonely country road and a bridge that crosses the Potomac River separates one of the area's most bitter high school football rivalries.

For 36 years, countless players and coaches have pointed toward this game for borderline bragging rights.

The rivalry has included: brawls between not only players but parents, hot words between coaches, less than flattering field decorations, police escorts for the visiting team and a "cooling off."

Berkeley Springs and Hancock, one of the area's most followed "backyard brawls," will write yet another chapter in their storied rivalry which started in 1957.

"It was a natural rivalry what with the close proximity of the schools," Hancock's first football coach Paul Imphong said. "As I remember, we stayed with them pretty well in that first game."

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That first game, a bitter battle in the rain, set the tone for what was to follow in later years.

"Hancock played very well in that game," said former Berkeley Springs head coach Bill Clatterbuck, who coached the Indians form 1980-1990 and played linbacker in that first game. "That rivalry did strange things to those teams. We were sometimes much better than them, but they made every game a struggle."

Berkeley Springs athletic director Wayne Sherrard was part of the rivalry's lore.

Sherrard, a bruising fullback, was the hero of the classic 1987 game, kicking a 31-yard field goal in overtime in the Indians' 15-12 win. Sherrard recalls that even though the players knew each other, the contact and emotions ran high.

"You knew you were going to get stung. I mean hit like you hadn't been hit all year," Sherrard said. "You left everything on that field."

Senior Jason Wahl plays linebacker for this year's Indians and he sees things a little differently.

"This game is huge for us," Wahl said. "I get along with those (Hancock) guys, but on the field on Friday night, my teammates and I need to take care of business."

Wahl was careful not to make any "bulletin board" comments but said the Indians will "give a little extra."

Hancock senior Sam Hess, who rushed for 245 yards against the Indians last year, agrees with Wahl. Hess, who has helped defeat Berkeley Springs twice in the last three years, says that respect and tradition are a huge factor in the game.

"We know how important this game is - not only to our team, but to our families and community," Hess said. "But I respect their team. I want both teams to step up and play."

Former Hancock head coach Jeff Bailey still gets butterflies thinking about the rivalry.

Bailey coached the Panthers from 1977-1991, and he remembered not only the players, but the community gauging the success of the team on that one game.

"It was a dogfight," Bailey said. "Even though we lost several heartbreakers during my tenure, the intensity level was always sky high."

And, what about this Friday?

"I'm sure that same intensity will be evident on the field," Bailey said.

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