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High School Rivalry's 100th Anniversary
Pottsville Republican/Evening Herald
Gridiron rivalry has long, storied history
Though school names have changed, Mahanoy and Shenandoah have been battling for a century
BY SAM MATTA
SHENANDOAH -- Some people are unsure of this football rivalry stuff.
Even when there has been 100 years worth.
They can't figure out how two schools are playing for a century, but they have different school names.
Well, let's just clarify it. As briefly as possible.
Since both Mahanoy City and Shenandoah are communities well over 100 years old, they have been going at it on the gridiron nonstop during that time span.
Keep in mind that Mahanoy City High School is not the same high school that it was back at the onset of this meeting.
Also remember that it may have started off as Shenandoah High School, and its alma mater does say during one of the verses, "All Hail Shenandoah, all Hail to thee ..."
But, it was J.W. Cooper High School, named after a former education leader in the borough, even though before the turn of the century it may have been known as Shenandoah High School.
One constant from the Shenandoah side is the mascot name - "Blue Devils."
That nickname goes back to the late Al Symbal, who was a former educator and teacher at the school that gave the school the name.
Symbal was a veteran of World War I and admired a crack fighting outfit from the French army that was called the "Fighting Blue Devils Brigade" for their daring all-out style of fierce fighting during the war in Europe.
"It is an honorable and proud name," Symbal once told members of his football team. "You should be proud to be even spoken in the same terms as that great French Army, and if you perform half as good in battle as they did, then you will make me proud as well to be able to call you the Blue Devils."
On the other side of the ledger, Mahanoy City High School was known as the Maroons before joining with East Mahanoy Township High School, the Purple Larks.
Ironically, on this, the 100th anniversary of the Mahanoy City-Shenandoah meeting, it also marks the 100th anniversary of the township, which recently was celebrated with much fanfare just two weekends ago.
The City-Township jointure came into vogue in the fall of 1959 and it has become known as Mahanoy Area High School with its mascot the Golden Bears.
At the time of the merger it was considered one of the bigger consolidations in the region, and it produced many great football teams.
Shenandoah, on the other hand, stayed as J.W. Cooper High until the fall of 1968 when it officially added "Valley" to the end of the name.
The formation actually was molded after Labor Day of 1958 when West Mahanoy Township closed its doors after being in school for one week.
Financially bankrupt, West Mahanoy Township - Shenandoah Heights, William Penn, Lost Creek, Brownsville - was no longer able to support the school and students were bussed to Shenandoah where the Rams - that was this Township's nickname - hooked up with the Blue Devils.
However not all of the West Mahanoy students went to Shenandoah. Those who resided in the Altamont Section of the township went to Frackville High and were welcomed with open arms.
Now that hopefully clarifies how these two communities have been able to get it on for the past century and will fire the juices up for the 100th time this coming Friday in Shenandoah.
And believe it or not, another constant of this rivalry is that the game in Shenandoah has always been played in the western end of the borough, known as Veterans Memorial Field.
As for Mahanoy City, it's been played in the east end, the west end, any end they could find a place to host this ultimate meeting.
(Matta is a correspondent and long- time area resident)
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