MENDON, MI – Some argue that a true rivalry does not exist unless a fair amount of success is experienced on each side.
I cannot totally buy into that school of thought. It’s not that simple.
Look no further than the rivalry that exists between Climax-Scotts and Mendon, particularly concerning the higher-profile boys sports in those communities.
Look no further than the rabid fans that show up for the Panthers’ and Hornets’ highly anticipated football and boys basketball showdowns, and the intensity with which they support their squads. In the past decade, Mendon has had Climax-Scotts’ number on the gridiron; meanwhile, C-S has had its way with Mendon on the hardwood.
Mendon’s boys basketball team did answer the bell Tuesday night in Kalamazoo’s MLive.com Game of the week. The ninth-ranked host Hornets toppled No. 1, unbeaten Climax-Scotts, 51-50, in a thrilling Class D showdown.
PHOTO GALLERY:23 images from the Mendon/Climax-Scotts boys game
Some judge the legitimacy of a rivalry based primarily on the won/lost ledger. Not me. While winning and losing should factor into the evaluation, it’s the intensity of the players and, maybe more importantly, the fans that defines a rivalry.
That intensity was apparent inside the Mendon High School gymnasium Tuesday night. Remember, Mendon is traditionally considered a “football school,” not a “basketball school.”
“This was really our first full, packed house, actually,” Mendon senior Andy Brueck said about the crowd of more than 1,600-plus. “It’s fun; I love it. People yelling and screaming – nothing like it.”
Inclement weather be damned, fans had good reason to pack the Hornets’ gym: It was No. 1 vs. No. 9, 17-0 vs. 15-1.
And that was just the boys game. The girls contest that preceded it, won by Mendon (40-32) in a tight battle, set a vibrant tone for what took place in the evening.
Players dove on the floor and wrestled for rebounds. Fans hung on every play and passionately reacted to each call of the officials. Those are the things that make high school sports so interesting, and make small-town rivalries like Climax-Scotts vs. Mendon so great.
“This was a fantastic event for a small school. We had (Nos.) 1 and 9 in ‘D’ for boys, (No.) 8 and honorable mention for girls – oh, my goodness. I don’t think it can get better than that for small schools in this area,” Mendon boys basketball coach David Swanwick said, beaming.
“The rivalry’s there, so that always brings out a few more (fans). I think if the weather would’ve been a little better, we probably would’ve had a few more. It was a fantastic atmosphere here. The girls game was tight. I mean, that was a good start. It really got people fired up.”
Climax-Scotts counterpart Steve Critchlow said that during the girls contest, the gym “sounded like a college game in here.”
“It was nice. I like this,” he said.
Critchlow likely tuned out the crowd and focused on the action on the floor, like most coaches do, but I’m here to tell you that the intensity only heightened during the boys game. It was a tough battle the entire way, full of ups and downs for both sides.
If you were to Google the word “rivalry,” the definition that appears at the top of the page reads, “Competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field.”
Climax-Scotts and Mendon are indeed competing for the same things when they meet in both football and boys basketball. They are playing for small-school superiority locally, but also stand in each other’s way when it comes to the pursuit of the ultimate goal: A state title.
“It’s a giant rivalry. I know Mr. (Kevin) Langs, sorry to say this, has never beaten Mendon in football so I feel very sorry for him and our community,” C-S senior Malachi Satterlee said, referring to the Panthers’ football coach. “It’s a giant rivalry and I think it’s reborn in basketball because we beat them in the past couple years.”
Mendon got one over on Climax-Scotts in hoops finally. The Class D district-opener scheduled for 6 p.m. on Monday, March 4 at Athens sets an exciting stage for their rematch.
Nothing else to say but “Game on.” Of course, it’s BEEN on between Climax-Scotts and Mendon and should only continue. That’s what happens in a rivalry.
Email Scott DeCamp at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ScottDeCamp.