Last Saturday was unusual, to say the least, for the Jamestown football team.
The Red Raiders were headed to Niagara Falls for their second game of the season at 2 p.m. At around 10:30 a.m. they had reached Grand Island when they were informed that Niagara Falls' home field, Sal Maglie Stadium, was unplayable because of heavy rain on Friday night and Saturday morning. An alternate playing site in the area could not be found, so it was decided to play the game in Jamestown at Strider Field at 7 p.m.
Fortunately, the rescheduled kickoff gave Jamestown athletic director Ben Drake plenty of time to get everything set for a sudden home game. However, he did admit, "I was a little surprised because it's not very typical. Usually you don't hear very often that conditions are unplayable for a football game."
Many felt that way on Nov. 13, 1976, when the Warren Dragons were set to play the Red Raiders at then College Stadium. It was bright and sunny that day, but that didn't describe the condition of the field.
About 6 inches of snow had fallen the previous day and it had been plowed off the grass field and the baseball infield on Saturday morning. But with the sun shining brightly, all it left was a sea of muck, mainly in the end of the field which included part of the baseball infield.
Football is usually played in all conditions, so everyone was set for the show to go on - except for Warren coach Toby Shea.
After slogging through warmups, Shea thought the field was unplayable and would not bring his team out of the locker room for the kickoff. That led to a 15-minute delay in the start of the game as he discussed the situation with the officials.
I remember being amazed that he thought the game should be postponed because of the playing conditions. This was football, the sport that is like the old postman's motto. It is played in rain, hail, sleet or snow.
The Warren coach didn't agree.
Shea continued to argue the point until the officials informed him his team could either play the game or suffer a forfeit loss. He decided to play, but he had argued the point because Warren had a lot on the line.
The Dragons came into the game with a perfect 10-0 record and they were ranked sixth in Pennsylvania. For the first time in years, Pennsylvania allowed high school football teams to play 11 games, so the 11th was scheduled long before that muddy day and it was with rival Jamestown for the 80th time.
When it comes to rivalry games, the old saying is you can throw records out the window. So even if the Red Raiders were 0-10, the undefeated Dragons would have been concerned.
But Jamestown wasn't winless, it was 6-2 for its most victories in 10 years. And the Red Raiders were playing at home.
Also, the terrible field conditions could be a great equalizer.
Jump ahead 11 years to 1987 when the Red Raiders played host to West Seneca East in the opening round of the Section 6 playoffs. Jamestown was undefeated at 8-0 and had recorded seven shutouts while running its winning streak to 17 games.
And just five days before the game, for the first time ever the Red Raiders were ranked No. 1 in the state.
Meanwhile, West Seneca East came into the game as a wild card and had won four games in a row. However, Jamestown was definitely the favorite playing on its home field at Jefferson Middle School.
But after snow the previous day, the once grass field was a quagmire of mud.
Jamestown recorded 110 total yards while West Seneca West had only 39 and still came away with a 6-0 upset victory.
Many still point to that game and the field conditions that led to the construction of an artificial turf field at now Strider Field.
That type of muddy upset was what Shea feared heading into that 1976 game. Then it appeared to be materializing when the Red Raiders took a 7-0 lead on their first possession.
Finally in the second half, Dave Ward of Warren scored on a 58-yard run and quarterback Kelly Fredricks ran for a two-point conversion to put the Dragons in front, 8-7.
Later, Joe Wozneak broke loose for a 93-yard touchdown run and another successful two-point conversion gave Warren a 16-7 win and a perfect 11-0 season.
The Dragons had avoided the upset, but the Red Raiders weren't so fortunate 11 years later.
Remember, you can never underestimate the power of mud.