MHS-UHS rivalry is a joy to watch
AS I WATCHED THE varsity boys basketball game between Morgantown and University on Thursday night it dawned on me — this truly is a special rivalry.
These kids know each other not by the numbers on their jersey, but by their faces and names.
Head coaches Tom Yester and Bruce Clinton didn’t say “go in and guard number one.”
Instead Yester told one of his player “go guard (UHS’s) Robbie Johnson,” and the MHS player knew just who to guard.
It’s that kind of special rivalry where — to steal a line from my favorite 1980’s television show ‘Cheers’ — everybody knows your name. And maybe the neatest part about the rivalry was after the game. Sure, the MHS players were upset about losing, but there were handshakes and pats on the back instead of tears and red faces. “There’s a very, very fierce rivalry within the confines of the game itself,” UHS athletic director Jeff Bailey said. “From football to basketball to volleyball to golf. That’s the team to beat during the regular season. I’m sure they feel the same way.” But off the court or field, the rivalry takes a backseat to these athletes. They are neighbors, they are friends. “They hang out together, and they are friends and acquaintances,” Bailey said.
Some of these athletes are even teammates on summer teams and they gain respect for each other for their skills and as competitors.
They may no longer want to cause physical harm, although they still do want to win this rivalry game.
MHS athletic director Dan Erenrich admits to being a competitive person and wanting to win every time the Mohigans step on the playing surface. But, after the game, he’s all smiles.
“I graduated from University and I have friends from there who have kids that go to Morgantown and vice-versa,” Erenrich said. “I think the parents have done a great job of raising kids who really respect each other.”
The two schools have grown to respect each other, too. It even reaches into the stands where the two student sections were having fun on Thursday night.
There was a chance, with that many students in one spot, for an incident.
Instead there was just laughter after the game among friends.
“I was incredibly proud of both student sections,” Bailey said. “They were very spirited. It was a lot of fun and in a good positive way.
“The sportsmanship of our two student sections was something both schools and communities can be proud of.”
It’s not always that way, in other cross-town rivalries things could get nasty and or even violent.
But on Thursday, it was almost a scene out of a Norman Rockwell painting.
“I think things have to be kept in perspective,” Erenrich said.
“I know that I can’t stand to lose, but we always try to say to our kids that the true value is to rise above the wins and losses and value our friendships.”
That’s not to say that there won’t be tension in this rivalry ever again, but this community has someting to be proud of right now.
Even though they have schools that are bitter rivals, the kids and grown ups have learned to put it aside.
After all, sports should bring out the best in us, not the worst.
ERIC HERTER is sports editor of The Dominion Post. He can be reached at