Rivalry renewed

Athens coach Jack Young (second from left) and Waverly coach Jason Miller (third from left) look to see what side the coin ends up on during a coin flip to decide homefield advantage for a game on Saturday, Nov. 2.

SAYRE — Teams from Athens and Waverly have met 102 times on the football field, but the rivalry has been dormant since 2012.

The rivalry could roar back to life on Saturday, Nov. 2 as the two schools have agreed to play in the first-ever The Valley’s UNICO Bowl.

Representatives from both school districts met at Yanuzzi’s on Thursday for a coin flip to decide which team would have homefield advantage. A coin with one black side and one red side ended up landing on black after UNICO Treasurer Nick Grego flipped it into the air, which means the game will be held at Athens’ Alumni Stadium at 7 p.m. on Nov. 2.

The only thing that would prevent the game from happening is if one of the two teams qualifies for the postseason, which at this point does not look likely.

“It’s going to be a special experience,” said Waverly coach Jason Miller. “It’s been a void in our program because our kids haven’t been able to experience what Athens and Sayre gets to experience every year as far as that rivalry.”

The Wildcats lead the all-time series 52-41-9, but the Wolverines won the last contest in a 24-21 thriller in 2012.

Athens coach Jack Young was surprised to see a large crowd gather for the coin toss.

“I didn’t expect to see this when I walked in here. There had to be damn near 75 people, 100 people in here and that’s the kind of excitement that builds around our communities,” Young said.

The longtime Athens coach saw a couple thousand people fill Alumni Stadium earlier this year for a Gold Out Game against Canton — where both schools raised money for a pair of Athens elementary students fighting cancer. Young is expecting a similar atmosphere when the Wildcats and Wolverines meet.

“Our kids have experienced some unbelievable community things this year just with the Gold Out Game that we had for Ariah and Seeley, I think this will be kind of like icing on the cake ... a chance to play a border rivalry,” said Young.

All the proceeds from the game will go to the Sayre chapter of UNICO, which supports the special needs communities in Sayre, Athens and Waverly and provides grants and scholarships to local students and school districts.

Sayre UNICO President Brian Rich is thrilled that the organization was chosen as the recipient of the funds.

“This is great for us. Everything that we do is for the community and when we get helped out by our community like this it really just goes to show the value of what we’re doing and it makes it easier for us,” Rich said. “It gives us motivation to go out there and do good for our community.”

Young believes UNICO was the perfect organization for this game to benefit.

“It’s just a great opportunity. A tremendous charity. UNICO, they do unbelievable things. Being a special ed teacher at Athens, I’m fully aware of what UNICO is all about,” said Young.

Both Young and Miller believe the players and communities will get pumped up for this contest.

“It’s a great opportunity. A chance for our communities to come together. It will probably be a cold November night, but bring your long johns, take part and have a good time,” said Young.

“It’s always a great thing to look forward to something Week 9 after the regular season,” added Miller.

Pat McDonald can be reached at (570) 888-9643 ext. 228 or editor@morning-times.com. Follow Managing Editor Pat McDonald on Twitter @PatMcDonaldMT.

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