Blair pitted against local rival for the first time since its reopening
Geography dictates that Blair and Northwood are natural rivals in the realm of high school sports. Since Northwood closed its doors in 1986, Blair has been without a true go-to opponent, with Springbrook and B-CC the closest things since then. When the Downcounty Consortium came into fruition in 2003, Northwood was reopened, and now, three years later, the tradition has been restored. This past week, Blair's spring sports took on the Northwood Gladiators once again after a 20+ year hiatus, renewing a heated rivalry that shined in years past.
Prior to its closing, Northwood was a major local adversary for Blair, the nearest high school that shared many of the same feeder schools. "This used to be a big rivalry," said softball coach Louis Hoelman, a '84 Blair graduate. "[Northwood] is definitely a natural rival."
John MacDonald, coach of the baseball team and a 1980 Blair alumnus, downplays the rivalry. "I have no animosity towards Northwood," said MacDonald. In fact, he roots for them as fellow a downcounty team who face the same hardships in securing funds for athletics. He does recalls playing against Northwood during his Blair days, when both programs thrived. Although he remembers little success against Northwood, Blair having lost all three matchups during his tenure, he does recall knowing most of their players, as they were the same people he grew up playing with on local teams.
Recruiting is a key to this rivalry. With the implementation of the Downcounty Consortium, students can choose which high school to attend. Top athletic prospects may choose to attend schools with successful programs in their sport, incentive for Blair to attract potential players. Both Hoelman and MacDonald have cited this as possible motivation to do well against Northwood and other local teams.
In only their third year of existence, the Gladiators, who are without a senior class, have not regained their past prominence in high school athletics. For now, Northwood is too inexperienced to be considered a serious challenger. Many Northwood teams are still seeking their first win since the school's reopening.
For MacDonald's baseball team, last week's matchup was nothing special, treating it like any other game. "It's no big deal [playing Northwood]," he said, although the squad picked up an impressive 17-6 victory against the outmatched Gladiators, just their second win of the year.
Hoelman for one hopes that the rivalry is rekindled, and the local race is renewed. "It's good to have this rivalry," he said. "I hope to see a strong Northwood team [down the road]."
Andrew Kung. Andrew Kung is a rising Magnet junior who is psyched for a year of Chips Online. He has lived in New York, Michigan, and New Mexico prior to his current residence in Maryland. As a cynical sports fan, he is not often disappointed, but not … More »