CALEDONIA Bill McAlee can still remember what it looked like and felt like that day back in 1973 when his Caledonia-Mumford football team pulled into Hartwood Park, home of the LeRoy Oatkan Knights.
“They had to move the people away from the fence just so we could go on the field,” said McAlee, 82, the coach of the Red Raiders from 1973-87.
Small schools. Big rivalry.
“Back in the day,” said Don Moran, 77, a former Cal-Mum junior-varsity coach and teacher for 43 years, “there’d be four or five thousand people here at a game. They’d drive down from Rochester.”
And now the rivalry, one that started in 1900 between these two schools located just a few miles apartin Livingston County, might be going away. That’s one reason fans lined the field at Cal-Mum Friday night. It was the 50th straight year the schools have played — LeRoy used a 21-point second quarter to win 28-3 — and the 82nd time overall in the rivalry. Cal-Mum still leads the series, 42-38-2.
“Just like a family has traditions that they follow each year to year, so do communities,” said David Betz, a 1983 Cal-Mum graduate who played two seasons of varsity football that included two losses and a win over LeRoy. “The community of LeRoy and the community of Caledonia-Mumford all gather every year for this game and it means so much to them, and to have it possibly go away, it’s a tragedy. We want to try to make it continue.”
May be a pause for Cal-Mum vs. LeRoy rivalry
Last year’s realignment of the Livingston County League from three divisions to two, moving Cal-Mum and LeRoy in different divisions (based on school enrollment) put the rivalry at risk. Administrators and coaches around the league shuffled schedules to ensure this season, the 50th straight meeting, still happened, but there are no guarantees for the future.
How much do the folks around here think that Cal-Mum and LeRoy is the best small-small football in Section V? As a fundraiser, the Cal-Mum cheerleaders had T-shirts made that said as much. They sold out — fast.
“It’s such a beyond-the-football-field thing between two communities with such incredible ties,” said Tom Pullyblank, a 1983 Cal-Mum grad who wrote a book on the Raiders’ history that came out in 2012. “There’s Pullyblanks in both. There’s Capotellis in both, Bonaquistis in both, Shaughnessys in both — just so many families have branches in both communities and we know each other so well.”
There’s plenty of crossover, too. Just ask Janet Cappotelli. She’s a 1984 LeRoy grad and former cheerleader who has taught at Cal-Mum for 27 years. Her husband, Chris, is a Cal-Mum grad who teaches in LeRoy.
“To me, this is the game that we live for every year,” she said. “Every game’s a big game, but this is just bigger. I think it would be a terrible loss to not have this again.”
Parents and fans in LeRoy agree. In fact, Cappotelli and LeRoy football boosters club chairperson Dee Henry helped organize the first pre-game tailgate party, attended by about 450 people. Cappotelli also helped spearhead a “Keep The Rivalry Alive Committee” that started in July with two people and grew to 50-plus.
There’s a spirit of unity. “I’m very excited we were able to pull this off,” Cappotelli said of the tailgate.
Cheerleaders from both schools even did a combined routine at halftime for the first time.
“My father played football against LeRoy and I know the old-timers will be really sad,” if the rivalry disappears, said Meg Geer, a nurse at Cal-Mum who was working the ticket booth. “These kids really like their rivalry, too.”
Pullyblank’s nephew, Cal-Mum quarterback Nick Harmon, represents the fourth generation of his family to play in the rivalry. His grandfather was on the unbeaten and unscored upon 1929 squad. Pullyblank said he was inspired by former Cal-Mum coach Eddie Matthews to write his book, which is titled: For None Can Rank Above Thee.
“It’s a great example of what tradition is all about. It runs deep,” said LeRoy principal Tim McArdle, whose children Liam, 5, and Ava, 4, attend Cal-Mum, and his wife, Vicki, teaches there. “At these games you see generations and generations of families show up and the pride that they have. Anytime you see something like that go away, that’s not good. Anything we can to do keep (something) that’s positive and good for kids in the community we’d love to do it.”
LeRoy wins, 28-3
Touchdown passes of 72 and 65 yards by Josh Laurie to Nate Flint and Nick Egeling’s 35-yard interception return for a TD in the second quarter sparked LeRoy to a 28-3 win at Caledonia-Mumford. The hosts took a 3-0 lead on Josh Roides’ 37-yard field goal late in the first quarter, but Egeling’s pick-6 put the Oatkan Knights (4-2) ahead and Laurie and Flint connected with twice in the final 1:39 of the half for a 21-3 cushion.
LeRoy and Cal-Mum are both 4-2.
LeRoy 28, Cal-Mum 3
LeRoy 0 21 0 7 — 28
Caledonia-Mumford 3 0 0 0 — 3
C — Josh Roides 37 FG
L — Nick Egeling 35 INT return (Mary Purdy kick)
L — Nate Flint 72 pass from Josh Laurie (Purdy kick)
L — Flint 65 pass from Laurie (Purdy kick)
L — Ryan Boyce 20 pass from Laurie (Purdy kick)
New era, same approach for Le Roy football