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Column: When rivalry games get heated, we must remember they are games and set a good example

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An opinion column by STEVE HARRISON, photos by STEVE HARRISON

As high school teams play each other through the years, there always a chance that the two teams will build a rivalry for years to come.

It doesn’t matter if it is football, soccer or academic all-stars. Once that rivalry is formed, you mark your calendar as ‘games you don’t miss.’

But how much is too much?

High school teams change each and every year. Seniors graduate. Some teams grow stronger, some are weaker. But there is always change year-to-year.

These rivalry games hold a high meaning for a high school event.

However, sometimes the high-spirited cheering goes too far and in the wrong direction.

From football to girls’ soccer and basketball and soccer, fans in the region get excited when Julio Maldonado enters the stands. The only person who could bring Wellsville and Hornell together when the Wellsville student section had him run over to take selfies during a Red Raider game in the Lion’s Den.

But a new rival entered in the conversation years ago and it’s getting stronger, Hornell and Livonia.

These two teams always seem to meet in the post season every year. And Wednesday night’s soccer game showed signs of that rivalry.

As Hornell’s most notable cheerleader, when Julio gets within 100 yards of the field or enters a gym, you KNOW he is in the house when you hear his loud and boisterous voice and feel the stomping the stands to the strength of an earthquake. There are costumes, pom poms in hands at times and always leading the student section in cheers and encouraging everyone in the stands to have a good time … after all, it’s a game.

On Wednesday as I was on the sidelines in front of the cheering sections, in my eyes a lot of things being shouted were not necessary.

Fans took the chance to scream at Julio to go home to sit down and shut up.

Is there a need for this?

In my eyes, not a chance at it being necessary.

Julio didn’t yell at anyone on the opposing side at all. His main goal was to head to the Red Raiders student section to show his support for the boys on the field.

This was not the first time he has been met with fans and parents yelling at him to ‘go back to Hornell.” Is the so-called rivalry spilling over into the stands now? Can’t you just cheer on your team rather then put your unnecessary attention to someone in the stands?

Unfortunately, the behavior continued. With two teams equally competitive, you expect the game to be good. With the score 0-0 in the first half, Livonia found the back of the net on a beautiful cross into the box to an awaiting Bulldog for a 1-0 lead. As soon as the ball hit the net, the players had one thing on their mind and that was to head right towards the Hornell section of the bleachers and mainly to the student section. As they are running and stopping in front of the stands with their fingers to their lips signaling the fans to be quiet. Was it called for? I guess if you carry the notion again being a rivalry, I guess that is what you do. You think that maybe it was a spur of the moment thing for the players to do, but after the second goal and a 2-0 lead, here they come again right towards the Hornell side of the stands signaling for the fans to be quiet and hands up to their ears as to saying ‘we can’t hear you.’

Kids see this. A student, no older than 12, turned to the Hornell student section and told them to shut up. An administrator tried to talk to the student and was met with the same phrase.

We can’t teach young children to think a GAME is a so important you have to show this type of behavior.

However, this may have caused a swing in momentum.

Being down 2-0 late in a sectional game, most teams would pack up and call it a night with 20 minutes to go and try and not give up another goal. But for the Red Raiders they just went to work.

With 19 minutes left, the Raiders pulled with in one to make the game 2-1. So what do the Red Raiders do? They quietly gather give a few high fives and get ready for work again. No need to run in front of the Livonia fans or student section, they just simply went back to their positions to ready for the restart. Was it the fact the team was still trailing well after the game tying goal what happen no celebrations no taunting the opposing fans or players they just got ready for the restart. As the game headed into overtime and 6 minutes in, the Raiders found a way to erase a 2-0 deficit to head to the championship game.

And again where did the Hornell players go? Straight to each other and to the Hornell Student section to celebrate a great game.

With some celebrating what do a couple others do? Jack Emo, the Section V goal scoring leader, found Livonia players on the turf, devastated their season, and for some, their career was over. Instead of running by them, he stopped and picked them up off the turf one-by-one. Why? Maybe because the Raiders don’t see rivalry games but rather just good games and know the meaning of sportsmanship and no need for excessive celebration.

Maybe some parents that live vicariously through the players on the field need to sit back and see its just a GAME. Players that seek out to taunt opposing schools players or fans maybe need to remember that this is just a game!

With everything being said I would like to mention the Section V sportsmanship motto that is read before each contest:

Be Loud

Be Proud

Be Positive … towards all players and coaches, officials and spectators.

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