In tonight's version of "Friday Night Lights," the playoff-bound football teams from Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake will face opponents they have become quite familiar with over the past two seasons.
The Red Storm, who will compete for a Section VII, Class C title in a week, will play Moriah for the fourth time in two years, while the Lumberjacks take on Gouverneur for the second time this season and the third time since fall 2012. As the only Class D team in Section X, Tupper Lake will have to wait two more weeks to play in a regional championship tilt, so as an added bonus, the 'Jacks will have one more matchup next week prior to the postseason. They will host Massena next Friday in the fourth meeting of those squads since the start of the 2012 season.
Four games between Moriah and Saranac Lake in two seasons, the same scenario with Tupper Lake and Massena, and none between the Tri-Lakes rivals in that time. Come on, folks in Section X and Section VII. You can do better than that.
Until last season, sections X and VII were merged into the Northern Football Conference, a situation that made for a little more variety when it came to scheduling games. Although the merger presented some challenges as well, it did provide for the annual rivalry game pitting Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake against each other in a battle for the Mayor's Cup trophy. Since the merger ended, the Lumberjacks and Red Storm haven't squared off. Instead, both teams played out of their classes in games that are essentially meaningless.
I say bring back the Mayor's Cup rivalry. It doesn't have to be at the end of the regular season, although it would have been a nice fit this year, with the possibility of the game taking place tonight or Saturday.
There have been some close contests between the Lumberjacks and Red Storm (the Redskins prior to 2001), and there have been some blowouts as well over the decades-long span the teams have played each other. That can happen in football, especially in the North Country when small-school programs are at the mercy of population demographics. During some seasons, teams could be stacked with athleticism, and other years, those numbers are down.
Pick any week that the Lumberjacks and Red Storm are on the road, and those teams and their fans will travel at least 40 miles to face an opponent. Meanwhile, only 20 miles separate Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake.
Although an annual game between the teams may not count toward sectional standings as long as there isn't a merger, it would still have great significance. The players would certainly remember butting heads in a rivalry, and the fans would, too. Throw in a coveted trophy, and now you have a game that really means something.
Instead of playing an out-of-class opponent twice a year, why not renew the Mayor's Cup game? It's something coaches from both schools say could be possible in the future. But in order for that to happen, the scheduling couldn't conflict with playoff situations, and it would have to be fair to other teams who might get shorted a game on their schedule, whether it's a meaningless matchup or not.
Give me a 2014 calendar and a pen and a list of football teams that compete in Section X and Section VII. I'll find a weekend to schedule a Tupper Lake-Saranac Lake football game next fall. I miss the Mayor's Cup rivalry.