It was October 2002. The Beacon High School football team was celebrating its homecoming. Hordes of students rode on floats at Hammond Field. The mood was jubilant, and the Beacon student body had reason to be happy.
At halftime, the Bulldogs led their biggest rivals, the Our Lady of Lourdes Warriors, 21-14.
Standing between Beacon and a big victory was Lourdes’ quarterback David Little. He had thrown an interception earlier in the game, perhaps giving the Beacon fans faith. Or at least no reason to worry.
But Little had more than a little Lourdean magic that he was able to dish out.
The quarterback led a drive late in the fourth quarter, ending with a Warrior touchdown. Then he was faced with two options: tie it up with an extra point, or go for the win with a two-point conversion.
Little looked over at the sidelines and put up two fingers.
The level of tension was astronomical.
Barreling past the Beacon defense on the goal line, the Warriors converted the two points, stealing a win from the Bulldogs and putting a damper on their homecoming festivities.
The smattering of Lourdes fans cheering probably seemed deafening to the silent throng of Beacon supporters.
It was a banner day for the Warriors. An emotional day for the Bulldogs. And it was only one example of how intense the rivalry between the two schools is.
Or, how it was. To some, the rivalry lost its luster.
Perhaps, time has played a hand in that. Before Saturday, the teams hadn’t faced off in three years, playing in different divisions.
Perhaps, now that Lourdes has joined Beacon in Section 1 Class A, the rivalry will soon be polished once again.
Saturday’s spirited game may have been the first step, even if it didn’t yet feel that way to the players and coaches on the field.
Lourdes came out on top this time, 28-9; a hard-contested game on both ends, despite being a little — a lot — less dramatic than some of the two teams’ past meetings.
A player like Warriors’ quarterback Dean Rotger, who is focused primarily on winning, viewed it as “just another game.”
“Whether it’s a rivalry or not, we still come out and play as hard as we can,” Rotger said. “We haven’t played this team in a few years. They used to be our crossover game when we were in Class B, and now we play them when they’re in our league.
“To win, it really means something. We just took it as another game, rivalry or not.”
The same can be said on Beacon’s end. Bulldogs coach Brian Mahon has taken notice of the diminishing flavor the Beacon-Lourdes rivalry once provided.
“I think the rivalry has been dwindled out a little bit. I don’t know if it’s as big as it used to be,” Mahon said.
Still, it’s a matchup that sparks the interest of fans from both sides.
“The kids always look forward to this game,” Mahon added. “It’s always a hard-fought game.”
It may not have had the pageantry of homecoming, or the theatrics of late-game heroics.
But, for two dormant rivals who grew unfamiliar over time, it may have been the first step toward a new era in Class A.
A.J. Martelli: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-437-4836, Twitter: @AJM_PoJoSports