By ROSS BISHOFF
There is no better week in football than rivalry week. And Week 10 brings us two of my favorite Lima area rivalries in the same week: Wapakoneta vs. St. Marys and Delphos Jefferson vs. Spencerville.
To be clear, on Friday, St. Marys is at Wapak while Delphos Jefferson is at Spencerville.
Both of these rivalries became what they are based on the two most important ingredients to a rivalry: History and close proximity.
Delphos Jefferson and Spencerville high schools are 13 miles from each other while Wapakoneta and St. Marys are 11 miles apart.
For whatever reason, it’s easier to detest a team the closer they are. History is another big reason.
St. Marys and Wapakoneta are charter members of the Western Buckeye League, which was established in 1940-41, giving them 80 seasons worth of games. The same can be said for Spencerville and Jefferson, charter members of the Northwest Conference in 1947.
Generation after generation after generation of football players have been able to hand down these rivalries to the point it becomes written in a given DNA.
Obviously, these showdowns aren’t always the super-heated, conference-or-bust games we’d love them to be. But bragging rights are critical to each program for an entire year, every year no matter what the records are. Such is the case with all rivalries. And all four of these programs have had their ups and downs over the years, their good runs and bad runs, allowing one team to be dominant for a span.
But in recent years, these two rivalries have heated up because all four programs have been good, meaning playoff berths and conference titles are up for grabs most of the time.
In the WBL, Wapakoneta won the league title in 2014 and 2015 then tied with St. Marys and Ottawa-Glandorf last year. This season, St. Marys (8-1 overall, 8-0 in the WBL) has already clinched the crown with a two-game lead on Elida (7-2, 6-2), Celina (6-3, 6-2) and Wapak (6-3, 6-2).
In the NWC, Delphos Jefferson has won or shared the league title the past four seasons, with Spencerville taking runner-up the past two with the Bearcats’ only league loss coming to Jefferson. This year, the Bearcats (7-2, 6-0) enter Friday’s game with a one-game lead over Crestview (8-1, 5-1), meaning they’ve clinched at least a share of the NWC title, their first since sharing it with Bluffton in 1996. Jefferson is 6-3 overall, 4-2 in the NWC.
That means Spencerville coach Chris Sommers is part of fourth-straight NWC titles. He won three at Jefferson before coming to Spencerville for this season. I’m sure Sommers leaving Jefferson for Spencerville in no way adds to the testiness of the rivalry.
Of course, I’m joking. It’s certainly added something to the Wapak-St. Marys rivalry. The Wapak people aren’t complaining, of course, because current coach Travis Moyer has done a masterful job. However, watching Doug Frye and his crew go from St. Marys, to Wapak, and back to St. Marys lends something to the fire between the fan bases.
What’s also important this week, as in recent seasons, is the playoff implications. St. Marys is sitting pretty in Division IV, Region 14 with the third seed, having already clinched a home playoff game to start the postseason. Wapakoneta is currently the seventh seed in Div. III, Region 12, meaning a win would be huge but a loss could push them out of the playoffs.
Over in NWC land, Spencerville has clinched a playoff spot, sitting with the fifth seed in Div. VI, Region 24 but could possibly get some points toward a home game with a win this week. In the same region, Jefferson is 11th but hasn’t been eliminated, meaning a win this week is a must.
Number of the Week: 6.5
– Opening betting lines have Ohio State favored by 6.5 points over Penn State in this week’s matchup.
Quote of the Week: “That was one of the better stiff-arms of my life.”
– Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers’ running back was talking about mashing Cincinnati cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick during this past Sunday’s game.