By GARRETT SEARIGHT
Riverdale High School was consolidated in 1962 from 3 separate school districts.
Forest, in Hardin County, consolidated with Wharton (Wyandot County), and Mount Blanchard (Hancock County) to form Riverdale.
When I was a student, the Mendon-Union school district was absorbed by the Parkway school district, and I remember the transition of the two schools becoming one being less than smooth. I can’t imagine what three communities coming together must have gone through.
There’s a certain level of pride having a school provides to small towns around West Central Ohio. When Wharton, Mount Blanchard, and Forest dissolved to become Riverdale, I’m sure residents of those towns felt like that had lost part of their identity.
Riverdale coach Mark Frey has come up with an incredible idea. Every year on Homecoming, the Riverdale Falcons will travel back in time to become one of their original schools.
Last season, the Falcons became the Mount Blanchard Purple Hurricanes, in a 29-26 loss to Cory-Rawson.
With the jerseys,
The calm before the storm! The Hurricane strikes tomorrow at 7pm! Blue Pride! pic.twitter.com/YBexY2Jezg
— Mark Frey (@CoachFrey) September 30, 2016
In 2017, the Forest Rangers, which may be the best village-nickname combo in history, will hit the field against the 2-5 Arcadia Redskins.
Rangers are on patrol this Friday! pic.twitter.com/tlwbxgvlpz
— Mark Frey (@CoachFrey) October 9, 2017
“The idea came about two summers ago when my staff and I were discussing ways to energize the team for the upcoming season,” Riverdale head coach Mark Frey said. “We kicked around a number of ideas, but after watching some college teams do some unique games, we came up with our Heritage Series. We discussed that each season on homecoming we would represent one of the three teams that came together to form Riverdale.”
Frey said a hidden benefit of playing as schools from the early 60’s was the excitement from the players.
“The moment we discussed this plan with the kids, there was an immediate buzz.”
And the communities of Wharton, Forest, and Mount Blanchard have really embraced the Heritage Series. “The community has been very supportive of this series. We have teamed up with many members of the surrounding three communities to put together different events, including finding alumni of those schools to assist with the coin toss.”
Trying to get jerseys that have modern amenities, while looking historically accurate has been surprisingly easy for Riverdale. “We have fortunately have had great help in finding pictures of the teams,” Frey said. “We have been able to get them pretty close to historically accurate. The only really new age thing to the jerseys was to include the team name on the front, which was not a common practice for these schools back when they were playing.”
Of course, this isn’t the first time a local school has gone back in time to honor schools before consolidation. Like Riverdale, Columbus Grove consolidated with Vaughnsville in 1962. In 2015, Columbus Grove had a throwback night, when the Bulldogs became the Vaughnsville Vikings, donning blue and white jerseys, while fans wore blue and white t-shirts, and Vaughnsville graduates were honored before the game. At the time, Columbus Grove superintendent Ken Verhoff told The (Findlay) Courier “We put our heads together and started brainstorming ideas. Last winter we thought it would be great to have a Throwback Vaughnsville night. It’s been over 50 years since Grove and Vaughnsville consolidated, but both schools have a very rich history in their sports programs and a lot of pride in their communities as well.”
Columbus Grove Vaughnsville won the game against Fort Jennings by a score of 57-53.
In January of 2016, Lima Central Catholic and Delphos St. John’s played their annual game on a Sunday afternoon, but this edition of the rivalry featured the Thunderbirds in St. Rose uniforms, honoring the 1948 State Runner-Up team, while Delphos St. John’s wore throwback uniforms of their own.
With the amount of consolidation that has happened in our area over the past 50-60 years, there could be some incredible throwback nights.
High school sports already produce so much pride in their communities, and honoring the people and the places that make your communities a school is a phenomenal idea that Riverdale has made into a community-wide event.
We look forward to seeing the Wharton Dragons take the field in 2018.