It's been 35 years since high school football rivals would conclude their regular seasons with a game on Thanksgiving. Time has eroded that tradition to distant memories, but rivalries remain strong in the final week of the Wyoming Valley Conference season.
Four have District 2 playoff implications, be it for seeding or a berth. Two have opposing coaches who have played in the game. One is for pride, but that goes a long way to making the season a success in another sense.
We're going into our rival, Meyers coach and former player Corry Hanson said. We wait for week 10 every year. We love playing GAR.
GAR (6-3) is coached by former player Paul Wiedlich Jr. The Grenadiers have clinched a D2-2A playoff berth, while Meyers (5-4) has done the same in the Eastern Conference Class 2A tournament. Their seedings, though, could depend on the outcome of today's game at 7 p.m. at Wilkes-Barre Memorial Stadium.
Throw the records out against Meyers, Wiedlich Jr. said. It doesn't matter if we're 9-0 or they're 9-0. It's going to be a great game (tonight) against Meyers. It's always a heated rivalry.
A few miles north, another heated rivalry – with a handful of unexpected outcomes – will take place. Wyoming Area (7-2) will be trying to secure the top seed in the D2-2A playoffs when it plays at Pittston Area (3-6) at 7 p.m. today.
Pittston Area defeated playoff-bound Wyoming Area 24-21 last year. In 2010, a winless Patriots team played tough against another playoff-bound Warriors team before falling 21-7.
Wyoming Area coach Randy Spencer said that during the long season it's a task to make sure his team is focused for each opponent. There's little problem when it comes to playing Pittston Area, which has won three of the last four meetings.
The Pittston game, the great thing about it is regardless of era, our kids and the Pittston kids are always ready to play it, Spencer said of the rivalry that started in 1967. It's a great game year in and year out.
It was a great game when Spencer played in it for Wyoming Area as a senior in 1987. The final – Pittston Area 21, Wyoming Area 15 – wasn't for the current coach.
It was always the most significant game we played, Spencer said, regardless of record, whether it was a season you were looking to be a playoff team or a year where with wins and losses it wasn't that successful. Pittston for us was always the most significant game of the year.
There is plenty of significance to Lake-Lehman (6-3) at Dallas (6-3) at 2 p.m. Saturday. First, it's the annual battle for The Old Shoe Trophy. Second, Lehman will find out where it lands in the D2-2A playoff field. And finally, Dallas could have its playoff destination determined – either the D2-3A playoffs or the Eastern Conference tournament.
Hazleton Area (1-8) travels to Berwick (8-1) for a 7 p.m. game today. The rivalry heated up once Berwick joined the WVC in 1988. Berwick coach George Curry ended his first stint as the Dawgs' coach with a 9-8 loss to Hazleton Area in the 2005 regular-season finale.
Oddly, Curry's first loss in his three years at Wyoming Valley West was to Hazleton Area.
Hazleton Area has played well in spurts against the WVC's top teams and an upset of Berwick, which is in the D2-3A playoffs, would be a good way for the young Cougars to enter next season.
The Hanover Area (0-9) at Nanticoke (3-6) game at 7 p.m. today is for pride. Nanticoke snapped a 12-game losing streak to Hanover Area last year and has a chance to send the Hawkeyes to their first winless season since finishing 0-11 in 1978.
Like Meyers-GAR, the two coaches have experienced the rivalry firsthand. Hanover Area coach Ron Hummer was the quarterback on the 1990 Hawkeyes team that won the PIAA Class 2A state title. Nanticoke coach Ron Bruza was a senior fullback and linebacker on the 1999 Trojans team that was the last to make the postseason.
They've always been a rival, Bruza said. It's our senior night and hopefully we send our seniors out on a high note.
Carbondale at Tunkhannock
Coughlin at Crestwood
Meyers at GAR
Hanover Area at Nanticoke
Hazleton Area at Berwick
Holy Redeemer at Pottsville Nativity
Northwest at Montrose
Williamsport at Wyoming Valley West
Wyoming Area at Pittston Area
Lake-Lehman at Dallas, 2 p.m.