Water is the source of life.
Evolutionary biologists believe microbacteria in water was the earliest life form. Space probes have been sent to Mars in search of water that may signal that life could be supported on the planet. And each year the Nile River floods, pouring thousands of gallons of water and nutrient-rich silt onto the shores of the parched deserts.
Oceans away in Fairmont, West Virginia, the Monongahela River cuts through the center of town, cutting it into two regions: East and West. This artery flows with a the life blood of a rivalry.
“No matter what sport is played, you’re going to have an East-West battle,” East Fairmont boys’ soccer coach Fred Roman said. “Some consider it the oldest rivalry in the state. Having been part of it, the tradition of that river makes a big difference in sports.”
The rivalry began in 1921, back when many of the players’ grandparents or great-grandparents were in school, presumably walking uphill both ways to get there.
It’s history remains relevant to this day.
“It's the most important game on the schedule,” Fairmont Senior coach J.L. Abbott said. “When I was hired in 2005, coach (Bob) DeLorenzo told me he didn’t care how we did all season, but there were two games we had to win. We had to beat North and we had to beat East. Period.”
As an outsider, I had heard stories about how veterans used to march through the town when the game was played on Nov. 11. Stories of 0-0 grudge matches. Even stories of a murder that took place during the game.
But I never experienced it ... until last night.
The East Fairmont Bees (and their giant inflatable mascot) were pumped up as they ran through the tunnel, greeted by a packed East-West Stadium crowd.
“What side?” The cheerleaders screamed.
“East side!” responded the boisterous student section, which included Superman and The Incredible Hulk decked out in body paint.
Shortly into the game, Fairmont Senior quarterback Austin Norman tossed a deep pass to Luke Hrapchak that slipped just through the tight end’s fingertips.
“Traitor! Traitor! Traitor!” the East Fairmont student section jeered, referencing the fact that Hrapchak transfered from East Fairmont to Fairmont Senior at the start of this season.
The remarks from East Fairmont’s student section weren’t the only low blows or cheap shots in the game. In total the referees called six personal fouls.
“I still have a lot respect for East Fairmont,” Hrapchak responded after the game. “They might not have a lot of respect for me, which doesn't bother me.”
As the game wore on, Fairmont Senior pulled away thanks in large part to Hrapchak’s 167 yards and two touchdowns. The two gentlemen sitting next to me in the press box took an early exit.
Dominick Postlewait, an 11-year-old decked out in East Fairmont gear, hopped into one of the vacant seats. While the Polar Bears built their lead to 41-13, he vigorously cheered every play, hoping for a miraculous comeback.
“I can’t remember a game where East Fairmont won,” he said.
Seeing the rivalry for the first time, I had to agree. The game that was billed as East Side vs. West Side turned out to be decidedly one-sided, with Fairmont Senior pulling away 41-13 to win its sixth straight and extend the all-time mark to 58-28-7.
Postlewait hoped he might have better luck by the time he made it to the high school.
“My dad calculated that when I’m a senior it will the the 100th year of the rivalry,” he said.
As I walked off the field, they pulled the plug on the blowup Bee while a man standing nearby patted the East Fairmont players on the back.
“Next year starts tomorrow,” he said as they walked to the locker room— like their blowup mascot— deflated.
Email Mike DeFabo at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.
Water is the source of life.
University hands Huskies first loss; East edges Elkins
The mercy rule has been a familiar part of North Marion’s softball season.
Through the first seven games, the Huskies regularly pounded their opponents with stingy defense, sharp pitching and timely hitting. Rarely did a game go all seven innings for the previously undefeated team.
Huggins signs junior college guard
Coach Bob Huggins completed his 2014-15 West Virginia University recruiting class on Wednesday and deemed it a success after receiving a signed letter of intent from junior college guard Tarik Phillip.
Phillip joins Jevon Carter of Maywood, Ill., and Daxter Miles of Baltimore’s Dunbar High and out of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts in the 2014-15 recruiting class.
HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing
The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.
Pirates shut out by Reds’ Cueto, 4-0
Johnny Cueto was on his game, and the only thing that the Pirates could do was watch.
Cueto pitched his third career shutout against the team that beat him in the NL wild card game, and Joey Votto hit a two-run homer that led the Cincinnati Reds over the Pirates 4-0 Wednesday for their first winning series this season.
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Stringing together some odds and ends which may be of interest to you:
• A beautiful lady came up to my table last Sunday at brunch in the Village of Heritage Point’s main dining room with a message.
COLUMN: Extend summer practices without over-extending athletes
Last week we told you about a proposal that would extend the summer practice period for West Virginia high schools.
It’s already cleared the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission Board of Control. Now it’s up to the West Virginia Board of Education to decide if the current three-week window should be expanded by five weeks.
Bussie looks forward to WNBA
On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Jackie Robinson’s impact extends beyond baseball
It is Jackie Robinson Day as I sit here writing this today, and I feel as though I am doing it in a world gone mad.
Every player in Major League Baseball wore No. 42 on Tuesday in honor of Jackie Robinson, the man who took racism’s best shot and integrated the game that was known then as the National Pastime even though it was as white a Ku Klux Klan robe.
Pirates finish off suspended game, fall in nightcap
Mike Leake doubled and hit a two-run homer Tuesday night, ending Gerrit Cole’s winning streak and leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 7-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates that completed two days full of homers and delays.
WVU’s Harlee named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete
The Big 12 Conference announced its Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients for the 2014 winter sport season, and West Virginia University senior Jess Harlee earns the honor for women’s basketball.
Harlee was selected as the award winner based on a vote of each respective sport’s head coaching group, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.
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