Keller: North, South share lunch prior to Saturday feast

November 02, 2011|By MARK KELLER |
  • Mark Keller, Herald-Mail Sports Editor
Mark Keller, Herald-Mail Sports Editor

To walk into the media center at South Hagerstown High School on Wednesday afternoon, you would think maybe Christmas had come early.

The library was decked out in green and red, but the season wasn’t the reason for the festivities.

The principals of South and North Hagerstown high schools hosted a luncheon in advance of the Gridiron Classic football game between the city rivals on Saturday afternoon, the 55th meeting between North and South.

The purpose of the luncheon was two-fold: To promote the game and the rivalry while putting forth a spirit of sportsmanship and respect.

Representatives from both schools — everyone from coaches and players to the cheer captains and drum majors — and community leaders trekked to the podium to share their thoughts about what the rivalry means to them.

It also allowed them to take some subtle — and not-so-subtle — jabs at the school on the opposite side of town.

“I wore a green jacket today because I was coming to South High,” said Hagerstown Councilman William M. Breichner.

“But,” he added,” I live on Oak Hill Avenue,” in Hagerstown’s North End.

Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox was presented with a jersey that he will wear while handling the pregame coin toss.

The jersey was as neutral as could be: White with a black no. 1, five letters in red (NORTH) and five letters in green (SOUTH).

“I’ll be the guy up in the stands cheering for both teams,” Wilcox said. “So if you see people jumping on me, coaches, send up your staffs.”

North Athletic Director Marcia Nissel took a moment to hound South player C.J. Davis, whose father played at North but is now an assistant coach at South.

“I had your dad in school. I thought we taught him better than that,” Nissel told Davis.

Nissel went on to say the rivalry was about more than football. It’s about education in general, as well as soccer, basketball, baseball and every other sport in which the two schools compete.

“Each school is a good school in its own right.

“North is better.”

But South Athletic Director Mike Tesla wasn’t to be outdone, doing his best to understate the Hubs’ current eight-game winning streak in the city football series.

“When I was the soccer coach here, we had a stretch where we defeated North 14 times in a row. So ...”

The players on hand were in the unenviable position of having to follow the adults. Most agreed that by the time it was their turn to speak, there wasn’t much more to say.

“It’s North-South. There’s not much else you need to say to define it,” said North’s Dylan Dopson. “That pretty much says it all.”

Washington County Board of Education President Wayne Ridenour — who graduated from South — had a message specifically for the players.

“This will be something that you remember for the rest of your lives,” Ridenour said. “It doesn’t matter where you play after this. There is nothing like North-South.

“So hit hard, hit clean and enjoy.”

Mark Keller is sports editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7728 or by email at

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