The best thing about high school sports is that it never changes.
The second-best thing about high school sports is that it always changes.
It’s constant: Same teams, same nicknames, same colors.
It’s consistent: Same rivalries, same sites – familiar old fields, musty old gyms, worn-out hills down dusty old third base lines – and same loyal fans in the same seats, season after season.
It’s refreshing: Different players, every year.
It’s revitalizing: Seniors move on, juniors take over, sophomores move up, freshmen move in.
This September we mark the 10-year anniversary of Rally, The Inquirer’s coverage of Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey high school sports.
Truth is, we’ve been covering high school for 100 years and we hope to do it for another 100. But now’s a good time to celebrate the first decade of Rally, to appreciate the athletes and coaches, the thrilling victories and heart-breaking defeats – the competition and camaraderie, the sportsmanship and spectacle of it all passing like a perpetual parade.
The beauty of high school sports is the way it links with the past while relentlessly pushing into the future. It’s a charming contradiction. It’s timeless, frozen, preserved in amber. It’s always in motion, forever forward, ever in update mode.
To avidly follow scholastic sports is to live in two worlds: Constantly captivated by the past, endless intrigued by the present.
It’s reveling in the roar of the crowd at the Catholic League semifinals at the packed Palestra in 2019 and somehow, at the same time, listening to the whisper in your mind about that bounce pass that led to the winning layup in that game between Cardinal Dougherty and St. Thomas More in 1969.
Ten years. In some ways, it seems like the blink of an eye. In other ways, it seems overflowing with a million memorable moments – this walk-off home run, that buzzer-beating jumper, this touchdown pass, that golden goal.
In Southeastern Pennsylvania, athletes such as St. Joseph Prep’s D’Andre Swift and Westtown’s Cam Reddish, Girard College’s Thelma Davies and Germantown Academy’s Maggie Lucas, Westtown’s Mo Bamba and Central Bucks South’s Josh Adams, Bishop Shanahan’s Kate Poppe and Unionville’s Erin Matson ran on those fields and across that hardwood, raced down the track and thundered through the pages (print and electronic) of Rally.
Who can forget the play of Northeast’s Deion Barnes and La Salle’s Kyle Shurmur, the Prep’s Skyler Mornhinweg and Upper Dublin’s Abbie Amdor, La Salle’s Matt Rambo and Haverford School’s Dox Aitken and so many others?
Along the baselines, around the track, across the hardwood and over football fields in South Jersey went Salem’s Jon Taylor and Atlantic City’s Dayshawn Reynolds, Eastern’s Geneviere Okoro and Haddonfield’s Briana Gess, Timber Creek’s Damiere Byrd and Camden’s Brad Hawkins, Eastern’s Madison Tiernan and Rancocas Valley’s Lauren Gaskill.
And the most unforgettable thing about the whole decade wasn’t even the great games as much as the poignant moments – the special charge of community and cooperation in the air at that Unified Sports track meet at Delsea, the way South Jersey football rallied around the passing of beloved Lenape assistant coach Mark Lilley.
Ten years. It was just a blink. And nothing much has changed – same teams, same uniforms, same familiar thump of that drum as the marching band prepares to take the field before another kickoff under the Friday night lights.
Ten years. It was a decade filled with a lifetime of memories. And everything has changed – new players, new coaches, new conference alignments, new rivalries, new chants from the cheerleaders after every touchdown.