H.S. FOOTBALL: Coal Township-Shamokin rivalry had its moments
Although the Mount Carmel-Shamokin Area Coal Bucket rivalry has lost some of its oomph in recent years with the Red Tornadoes' domination of the series, the rivalry still remains probably the strongest in the immediate area.
Fifty years ago, when there were more area schools, there were several such rivalries, including the Shamokin-Coal Township series, What a lot of people don't realize about that series, is that it got so nasty that it was put on hiatus for 17 years by the schools.
Tom Ryan of the Black Diamond Sports Network did some recent research on the series and passed it along to us. The series began ominously in 1924 with a 1-0 forfeit win for Shamokin when Coal Township's players left the field over a disputed penalty, saying they hadn't heard the officials' whistles.
The Greyhounds earned a 21-0 win the next year but over the next seven years, Coal Township won five games with two ties. But after the Purple Demons' 19-0 win in 1932, the series was suspended because of fights, vandalism and general mayhem that accompanied the games.
Through the rest of the Great Depression and World War II, there was no Shamokin-Coal Township game until the schools resumed play in 1949, with both school districts warning students and others that further bad behavior would cause the series to be terminated permanently,
The only thing that stopped the series after that was the jointure of the schools in 1965.
By series' end, it was pretty close all the way around between the schools. Coal Township had a slight edge, 13-10-2. Three games were decided by a point, in 1924, 1951 and 1952. Coal Township's defense had nine shutouts, Shamokin had five.
The most points scored in a single game was 39 by Coal Township in 1956, when Vincent Paczkoskie scored four touchdowns, the most by a player in a game.
From 1949 to 1964, Coal Township produced 27 Division I players and the Greyhounds nine.
Triumph of marketing
A couple of weeks ago, at the same time that maybe - maybe - 700 people were in attendance at Bucknell's 51-27 home loss to Holy Cross, more than 107,000 people were gathering 55 miles west on Route 45 in State College for Penn State's eventual 43-40, four-overtime win over Michigan.
Which got me to thinking about the marketing of big time college football. Believe it or not, there's not that much difference between Penn State's players and Bucknell's. Penn State obviously has
more of them and a game between the teams would likely be a rout. But if you made an even-up 10-for-10 trade - put Penn State's 10 best players on Bucknell and vice-versa - you'd probably have a pretty competitive college football game.
So why does one school struggle to attract a thousand people to its games, and the other is host to seven or eight big parties a season?
The biggest answer is probably television, and the triumph of marketing done by the big school's athletic programs, some of which are totally separated from the schools themselves.
A Bucknell professor who is the team's academic advisor told Sports Editor Charlie Roth that the Bison have always had trouble with attendance. To be fair, the students were on break the week of the Holy Cross game. But the adviser also told Roth that it's a battle just to get players' girlfriends to come to the games.
On the other hand, Bucknell's basketball program is perceived as big time, and the students flock to Sojka Pavilion.
(Souders is a sports writer for The News-Item)