Randolph vs. Maple Grove.
The mere mention of those two prominent Class D football programs conjures up conversations at coffee shops and water coolers throughout Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties every year.
Heck, who am I kidding?
Randolph coach Pat Slater, left, and Maple Grove coach Curt Fischer have been involved in some epic games during their long careers at their respective schools.
P-J photos by Rob Tucker
When those two rivals meet it is news throughout the Empire State. Each school has won two New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships and played in numerous Section 6 and Far West Regional games. The coaches - Pat Slater and Curt Fischer - have combined for 368 victories between them and they usually have their teams in the New York State Sportswriters Association rankings.
This season is no exception.
When the second-ranked Red Dragons (2-0) take on the 16th-ranked Cardinals (1-1) at 7:30 p.m., Friday night on the Dutch Hollow Road, it will signal yet another renewal of a fall tradition.
Maple Grove has posted impressive wins over Silver Creek and Cattaraugus-Little Valley, while Randolph rebounded from an opening-night loss at Frewsburg to knock off Silver Creek in the waning minutes last week.
What will happen when they knock heads this week?
Maybe it will turn out like some of the showdowns of the past. Following are three of many memorable clashes through the years:
With a berth in the Section 6 Class D championship game on the line, Maple Grove's Jarod Masci and Kellen Wefing stopped Randolph's Mark Wellington on his two-point conversion run and the Red Dragons held on for a 21-20 epic semifinal victory in overtime before a huge gathering on the Dutch Hollow Road.
''It was incredible,'' an exhausted Fischer said. ''Those were just two teams that have great tradition and both of them fought their hearts out for the win. What more can you ask for? That's high school football at its best.''
J.J. Welling led Maple Grove with 168 yards on 30 carries and two touchdowns.
Wellington scored on a pair of short TD runs to pace Randolph.
''A lot of my tears are for Randolph,'' Fischer said, ''because they played their hearts out.''
About a month later, the Red Dragons won their first state title.
On a cold, wet and windy night, Randolph's defense stymied Section 6's top-scoring team and its offense came through with a big play in the waning minutes as the Cardinals shocked Maple Grove, 11-7, in the sectional semifinal.
The Red Dragons entered the game undefeated and ranked second in the state. They had dominated every opponent they had played, except Randolph, but their 14-0 win in that game left the Cardinals 0-2 and facing a long road just to make the playoffs.
But Randolph put together a great defensive effort as Maple Grove went three-and-out five times and had two others end on turnovers, once on the third play of the drive and once on the first.
Blake Morrison rushed for 124 yards on 24 carries to lead the Cardinals, who headed back to Ralph Wilson Stadium, a venue they have become quite familiar.
The Cardinals, behind a 127-yard, two-touchdown effort by senior running back Matt Hettenbaugh and a whopping edge in time of possession, held off the defending state champions, 21-20, in the Section 6 Class D championship game at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
It could have easily gone in Maple Grove's favor, too.
In fact, the Red Dragons, trailing 21-7, early in the fourth quarter, rallied for two touchdowns in the final minutes on short runs by senior running back Taylor Rosenberg, but a bad snap following the second touchdown caused senior Chris Secky's extra-point try to slide wide right with 1:40 remaining.
The Cardinals recovered the on-sides kick and ran out the clock to preserve the victory. Several weeks later, Randolph captured its second state title.