Sunday, August 15, 2010

Old rivalries remembered

I remember the good old days in LeFlore County football, back when Heavener and Poteau were huge rivalries along with Poteau and Spiro.

The Heavener and Poteau rivalry died in the mid-1980s after the Pirates destroyed an already banged up Heavener team by over 40 points and several Wolves were hurt or sent to the emergency room.

I remember attending those games and also playing in them. There was no bigger game. In Heavener, the pre-game festivities were almost bigger than the games.

On Thursdays, there would be a big pep rally and a bonfire with the Pirate burned, followed by a snake dance that stretched from the school all the way through downtown and back to the school.

On Fridays, there would be another big pep rally and there was always an excitement, unlike any other game we played. The stadiums would be bloated with fans for both teams, with even the end zones filled with people, not just the kids playing ball.

Heavener last beat Poteau two years running back in the 1970s. Those Heavener teams were coached by Ralph Perdue, whose son Andy, is now the defensive coordinator for the Pirates.

During my three years on the varsity, two of the games were close. My sophomore year, the only time the game was played in Heavener, we lost somewhere around 15-0.

My junior year, we visited Poteau and the game was over by halftime. That was a good Poteau team and we were banged up badly and had little depth. Most of the Heavener players had to play ever snap and special team play and I was more tired at halftime of that game than I have ever been.

Then in my senior year, 1980, we were 1-1 going into the game while Poteau was 2-0. Maybe the Pirates were overlooking us our something, but we scored first and after we scored, there was a silence coming from the fans on the other side like they were in amazement.

Poteau won up winning 21-7, but we still had chances to come back, but couldn’t take advantage of them.

The next year, the Pirates came to Heavener and escaped by one point.

The series lasted a little longer before being buried.

Looking back now, my senior year we played every county school aside from Spiro. We played Arkoma (a good team which lost only once in the regular season), Pocola, Poteau, Talihina and Panama. Obviously Arkoma played 11-man back then and Bokoshe did not play football.

Now the Poteau and Spiro series has been put to rest. A series which featured the two best teams in the county for so long, a rivalry that has gone back and forth over the years.

Poteau has won the last couple of years, but Spiro has won its share of games also.

Some of the games over the last few years have been blowouts. But for a school with the tradition of Spiro to end this series, still surprises me.

Over the last few years, the opener has always been Poteau and Spiro. At one point, the two teams played on Saturdays so the rest of the county could attend.

But in the openers this year, Poteau travels to Checotah and Spiro hosts Panama. The Spiro and Panama game makes sense in this distressed economy, but now Poteau does not play a single county team

The Pirates’ non-district schedule features games at Checotah, a home game with Idabel and a game at Gravette, Ark. But it is not Poteau’s fault, it is just a sign of the times.

And a sad one at that.

Heavener and Panama are considered a rivalry. Heavener and Spiro were getting to be a good rivalry, but that series ended this year when Spiro moved up a class. Others would say Panama and Pocola is a good rivalry, but they haven’t even played the last two years.

A rivalry to me is one of those games where the two schools play every year. Back when Heavener played Poteau, the two schools had been playing since the 1920s. Our grandfathers and fathers played against the grandfathers and fathers from the other school.

Now that is what makes it a rivalry.

1 comment:

  1. Craig, in the senior year for our Class of '65 which would have been the '64 football season, Heavener finished only 2-7-1, but the two wins were over Spiro and Poteau. Thanks to a two-point conversion, the Wolves won 8-6 over Poteau in the final game of the year. Made it feel like a winning season.