Purple Eagles, Mustangs have a long and rich football rivalry
Vets Park will be the scene Friday night as Albion and Medina renew one of the state’s oldest high school football rivalries which dates back to 1898.
Albion emerged victorious in that inaugural meeting in mid October of 1898 by a narrow 5-0 margin (touchdowns counted 5 points in that era). Billy Rose is credited with scoring that historic first TD kicking off a rivalry that now 117 years later is the seventh longest in the state matching the one between Buffalo St. Joe’s and Buffalo Nichols.
Albion, which currently holds a 64-47-5 lead in the series, went on to win a rematch later that season 11-5 but Medina got its first victory over the Countyseaters by a narrow 6-0 score the following year in 1899.
It is interesting to note that unlike the well organized varsity and JV programs that high schools have today with formal leagues and sectional schedules those early teams were run by student athletic clubs.
Both schools have taken turns putting together dominating winning streaks in the series which was played on Thanksgiving Day from 1924 to 1936 and on Armistice Day (now Veterans Day) from 1937 to 1958 when it became part of the regular season schedule. In recent years the game has returned to the end of the league schedule as part of Section VI’s “Rivalry Weekend”.
Albion in fact started that trend of big runs by going 20-5-1 over the first 26 years of the series from 1898 to 1924.
Two of the longest runs not surprisingly came during the tenures of two of the series legendary coaches as Medina went 18-5-1 from 1955-1978 under Coach John “Pinky” Laughlin and Albion went 23-8 under Coach Dick Diminuco from 1979-2008.
It has been a series filled with many memorable players and games. Following is a sampling of just a few of those contests. In 1935 and 1936 Albion scored back-to-back wins of 24-12 and 27-0 led by Tom Collella, who went on to star at Canisius College and with the Cleveland Browns of the NFL. In 1969 the Purple Eagles scored a 9-0 victory on a touchdown run by Bruce Good and a field goal by Neil Parker which ended Medina’s series longest 10 game winning streak. And in 1999 and 2008 the Mustangs scored overtime wins first of 26-24 on a TD by Greg Hodgins and then of 28-27 on a TD pass and extra point run by quarterback Levi Pace, victories which snapped Albion win streaks of 7 and 8 games respectively.
Narrow regular season wins in the series also helped propel both the Purple Eagles and Mustangs to successful sectional title quests during each of the first five years of the Section VI playoffs from 1979 to 1983.
Albion nipped Medina 14-6 in 1979 in touchdowns by quarterback Jim Benedetti and tailback Dan Monacelli and the Purple Eagles went on to edge past Springville 13-12 for the sectional title. In 1981 touchdowns by David Austin and Ken McNeil earned the Purple Eagles a 14-0 win over the Mustangs and Albion went on to best Frewsburg 44-14 in the sectional title contest. Then in 1983 a touchdown by TJ Hooker and extra point kick by Steve Bragg earned Albion a slender 7-6 win over Medina and the Purple Eagles went on to defeat Silver Creek 35-6 in the sectional title contest. Interestingly, quarterback Ken Burke guided the Purple Eagles to both the 1981 and 1983 wins.
Medina likewise nipped Albion 15-12 in 1980 on touchdowns by Kevin Furness and Jesse Balcerzak and extra points by Furness and Steve Cavers and the Mustangs went on to defeat Silver Creek 20-14 for the sectional title. Again in 1982 a narrow 17-14 win over Albion on a 32 yard field goal by Tom Fredericks in the fourth quarter lifted Medina past Albion and the Mustangs went on to claim the sectional title with a 26-7 win over Cassadaga Valley.
However, none of the rivalry games probably was bigger or more memorable that the 1988 Section VI championship clash which put the Medina vs. Albion rivalry on Western New York’s biggest stage, Rich Stadium (now Ralph Wilson Stadium). Medina emerged with a narrow 14-7 victory as Jim Snyder, who went on to earn WNY Player of the Year honors, scored both Mustang touchdowns with the game winner coming in the fourth quarter on a dramatic 39 yard run.
Of late Medina has won three of the last five meetings including high scoring contests the last two years (56-34 in 2012 and 38-31 last fall).
The teams will continue their storied rival on Friday night as the Mustangs host the Purple Eagles with bragging rights, the “Doc’s Rock” trophy and a possible sectional title berth all on the line. It marks the fourth time in the last five years that that a sectional berth is at stake.
The school enjoying the advantage in each of the decades are as follows:
1898-1899: Albion 2-1-1
1900-1902: Medina 3-2 *
1911-1916: Albion 8-1
1920-1929: Albion 8-3-2
1930-1939: Albion 6-3-1
1940-1949: Medina 6-4
1950-1959: Albion 7-3
1960-1969: Medina 9-1
1970-1979: Medina 7-2-1
1990-1999: Albion 8-2
2000-2009: Albion 9-1
2010-2013: Medina 3-1
* No games were played in 12 years including 1903-1910, 1913 and 1917-1919 and 12 other years saw the teams play twice, mostly prior to 1924.