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North-South rivalry gives Wiebel much to talk about

November 09, 2000

North-South rivalry gives Wiebel much to talk about



By BOB PARASILITI / Staff Writer


There was a time when the City Game was the definition of one of sports oldest clichs.

You know ... "When these two teams meet, just throw the records out the window." And in many cases when North Hagerstown and South Hagerstown have met on the football field, that was the kindest thing fans could do.

Yet, there is a certain kind of excitement that goes with any confrontation between the Rebels and the Hubs, who renew the battle at 7 p.m. Friday at School Stadium. It's the kind of excitement that keeps guys like Russ Wiebel coming back every year for more.

"I would say that this is a very special game," Wiebel said. "I'd rather see them play against each other than against any one else. It's a game between boys I've come to know and their parents and coaches. So it means so much more."

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Wiebel would know. On Friday, he will be broadcasting his 39th straight version of the city rivalry on WJEJ-AM radio. In fact, he has witnessed all 43 games between the two city schools.

To be honest, the City Series hasn't been all glitter and glitz. There have been only 15 occasions that one of the two teams has had a winning record heading into the finale. Friday will be only the eighth time both teams will have better than a .500 mark, the first time since 1990.

Still, there have been a lot of memories for Wiebel in a series that seems to be littered with less-than-memorable matchups. This season's game could top the list, as South Hagerstown (6-3) will be playing for a Maryland Class 1A playoff berth while North (5-4) will be trying to prevent such prosperity.

"There have been a lot of good, interesting games over the years," Wiebel said. "There has been only two times that one of the two teams have been undefeated though."

Wiebel still remembers when the records didn't matter.

"It used to be like what Allegany-Fort Hill games are in Cumberland," Wiebel said. "The stands used to be packed and fans would be standing on the track around the field. All the seats were reserved and sold ahead of time. There would be 8-10,000 fans at the game."

Those who were at School Stadium along with Wiebel had similar memories. For example:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> "I guess one of the more memorable ones was when South (tied) North (6-6) in its first year of existence (1957)."

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> "I remember (1962) when Phil Petrie was a senior and South was undefeated. North came within a few minutes of beating South and ending their winning streak."

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> "There was another year when I was talking with (coaches) Dave Wachter and Donnie Hull and they asked me who was going to win (the 1977) game. I said South would win, 9-6, and they laughed. South ended up winning, 9-6. I figured it out by taking the scores of the Fort Hill, Allegany, Martinsburg and Thomas Johnson games the two teams played in the old CVAL and Tri-State League that year and figured South did an average of three points better with an average of 9-6."

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> "Then there was the times they awarded a trophy for the City Championship. They called it the Russ Wiebel Trophy. It was last awarded in 1982 ... I don't know where it is now."

Nowadays, the excitement has changed when it comes to the City Game. While Wiebel still looks forward to it, others have become less passionate.

"As years have gone by, people will turn out if the teams are undefeated, but now there are more and more new people moving into the area who don't have any attachment to the schools," he said. "They don't have the roots to the community. It used to be more than just students and players' parents went to the game. The whole community showed up."

Wiebel says the redistricting of area schools has made a difference in the interest of the game. The addition of other county schools has scaled back the size of the student body at both schools.

But this year, the success of the Hubs and Rebels could add a little more excitement to the crosstown matchup.

"Both teams have been half decent this year and it might bring out more fans," Wiebel said. "It won't be anything like it used to be ... Those days are gone and I don't think they will ever be back."

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