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City rivalry proves it's a small world after all

November 09, 2006|by MARK KELLER

The phrase "It's a small world" gets tossed around quite casually at times. Until I started delving into the North Hagerstown-South Hagerstown football rivalry a few weeks ago, I didn't realize just how small the world truly is.

In a conversation this week, current North coach Danny Cunningham said of the North-South series, "It's one of those games that you can just throw names out there."

I wonder if you have had the same experience I've had while reading the stories, the game capsules and the e-mailed memories that we have published so far this week - that light-bulb-in-the-head experience when you see a name and say, "I know that guy!"

It's happened to me on more than one occasion this week, but it really hit me with an e-mail we received Sunday.

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The note was from Greg Stains, a 1984 North graduate. He mentioned taking a hit from Randy Jamison in the 1983 game ("the hardest I had ever been hit").

My brother, Doug, was a 1984 South graduate and played in that same game. Maybe I know this guy.

Then it hit me I played junior football with Greg, on the lowly Browns. He and Doug were eighth-graders when I was in fifth grade (and they likely took turns trying to take my head off when the B-Team offense had to try to run against the A-Team).

So after exchanging a few e-mails, I called Greg on Wednesday.

"I do remember you from junior football, and I've wondered before if you were Doug's brother," Greg said.

We talked for a few minutes about the Browns (though, believe me, there wasn't much to say about those teams) and when I asked about his memories of North-South, he mentioned the junior football league.

"It wasn't like it is now, where they break the teams up by school. It was more of a hodgepodge then," Greg said. "So you knew all those guys from playing with them - Doug, Randy, Donnie Rowland, Tim Twiss."

All those guys went to South. I knew all those guys, primarily through my brother. It just about made my head spin.

Greg said knowing the players that the team would be facing put an interesting spin on preparations for the game.

"Well, you knew each other by name, so when I went to the line, I knew I was going to be facing Randy Jamison or Donnie Rowland it wasn't just a position, you knew who you were looking for," Greg said. "That intensified the rivalry."

And, in some ways, it made the rivalry slightly more friendly than some night imagine.

"I remember having conversations on the field, talking back and forth a bit. Nothing derogatory, but talking," Greg said. "At the same time, I knew your brother, but when I got the opportunity to hit him, I was going to hit him."

Which brings us back to "the hit," the one he referenced in his original e-mail.

"It was one of those typical things, going back to the huddle and not really knowing where you are," Greg said. "He knocked me for a loop. I watch the video of that game from time to time and I think he threw me about three yards."

Greg said he sees Randy often now. Greg is a coach for the Williamsport Bears in the Washington County Junior Football League; Randy coaches the Williamsport Vikings.

He also said he still sees a number of his former teammates from North, and they still talk about high school football.

The North-South rivalry is still strong for Greg, but it's been tempered to some degree: He married a South High girl, one who graduated with me in 1987.

It really is a small world. But no matter how tame, or how intense, a rivalry is still a rivalry.

"I always blame her South High education for her shortcomings," Greg said. "But it's all good-natured."

Mark Keller is sports editor of The Morning Herald. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2332, or by e-mail at keller@herald-mail.com

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