Grosse PointesOctober 03, 2012
Big North and South rivalry even more important this season
By Mark Vest
Grosse Pointe South’s football team gets ready for the second half off a game against Utica Eisenhower earlier this season. South is hoping to defeat rival North for the third consecutive year when the two teams meet Oct. 5.
Grosse Pointe North and Grosse Pointe South will meet on the gridiron at 7 p.m. Oct. 5 at North in the 44th game of their rivalry series.
North leads the all-time series 28-15, but the Blue Devils have won the last two games, including last season’s 18-13 victory. If South is victorious Friday, it would be the first time in the history of the rivalry that the Blue Devils have won three consecutive games against North.
Perhaps the greatest attribute of rivalry games is the atmosphere that comes with them, and there is likely to be plenty of it Oct. 5. There will be a tailgate party in the parking lot at North, music from the bands from both schools, and a crowd North coach Frank Sumbera expects could be large as 8,000 to 10,000.
Members of the United States Marine Corps will also be at the game as part of the Great American Rival Series, which, according to its website, “shines the spotlight on top high school football rivalries across the nation.”
Sumbera has seen every game between North and South, and he has an idea as to where the game ranks among high school rivalries.
“The North-South game is one of America’s biggest high school rivalries games — in our community, the state of Michigan and the country,” he said. “People know about it. It’s going to be highly publicized.”
South coach Tim Brandon has thoughts similar to those of his coaching counterpart.
“It’s one of the best rivalries not only in the state of Michigan, but in the country,” he said. “It’s very respectful. I know I respect everybody on their coaching staff, and I assume they do, as well.”
And you can bet the coaches will not need pre-game speeches to fire up their players.
“As the head coach, and seeing all of the North-South games that have ever been played, nobody ever has to say anything to get the players fired up to play in that game,” Sumbera said. “The community, the school, everyone’s really behind it.”
Brandon has an idea as to why the North-South game carries such significance amongst the players.
“The great thing about the Grosse Pointe community is it’s a tight-knit community,” he said. “These kids from Little League on compete with and against each other. They’re playing against each other from 8 years old in all types of sports. It’s a great rivalry. It’s one that’s tense and competitive, but it’s kind of a friendly thing where the kids after the game shake hands, pat each other on the back and go on.”
A game that was already a big one before the season even began has taken on even more significance. North and South both reside in the Macomb Area Conference Blue Division, and their game will have an impact on the top of the standings.
South comes into the game leading the division with a 3-0 record (5-1 overall); North trails by one game at 2-1 (4-2 overall).
“It’s a huge game,” Sumbera said. “Not only rivalry game, but big implications on the league championship. I have a lot of respect for the Grosse Pointe South football team and community. Coach Brandon was on my staff for a lot of years. He’s doing a really good job. They beat us last year, so it’s going to be very interesting. It’s a big game, big crowd, a lot of excitement. Two good football teams playing and a very enjoyable evening.”
This is Brandon’s sixth season as South’s head coach, and this is the first time he’ll face North as a divisional foe. And with both contending, he understands there will be a different element to this game.
“It adds a little dynamic,” Brandon said. “Over and above the normal rivalry stuff and playoff implications, now we have a league championship on the line. We’re one game up in the division, and every division game when you’re leading the next four (teams) by one game is a championship game. The rivalry doesn’t need any more additions to what it is, but that adds a little bit of flavor to it, for sure.”