Schuckman: Crowd, atmosphere elevate QHS-QND rivalry game to community celebration
QUINCY — A game of two-hand touch played by a gaggle of kids wearing their Junior Raiders football jerseys unfolded beneath the large oak and blaze maple trees casting shade across the uneven grassy space near the tennis courts in South Park.
Kickoff for the season-opening showdown between Quincy High School and Quincy Notre Dame loomed in the hours to come, but you could begin to see how a community was banding together to celebrate football.
As the kids ran and played, their parents set up an expansive tailgate party, well within walking distance of Advance Physical Therapy Field.
They milled around and chatted. They ate. They drank. They acted like fans.
Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do on a night like this?
“You get to enjoy a beautiful sunny sky that becomes a star-lit night and you get to watch two football teams leave their hearts and souls on the field,” said Christopher McKee, who has attended QND games every fall since moving to Quincy more than a decade ago. “And you get to walk around and talk to friends.
“No matter which direction you go, there’s somebody you run into that you know who wants to talk about these teams and football. That’s what being a fan of this game is all about.”
Loyalties don’t seem to matter as much as you might think.
The west bleachers were filled by a white-clad QHS student section and an abundance of Blue Devil blue-clad fans. On the east side, navy blue and gold were the predominant colors, aside from the QND student section, which wore black because it had in last year’s victory by the Raiders.
But when you came through the parking lot and strolled through the entrance to the field complex, the colors seemed to blend together.
“My wife and I talked to fans from both schools as we walked across the parking lot,” said Dennis Smith, who is a 1964 graduate of QHS and has attended every football matchup between the two schools since the series was renewed in 2015. “Basically, what everyone kept saying was they hoped for a great game, a spirited game.
“It’s a rivalry game, but it’s not. It’s a community game. It’s the type of game that builds football in our city. It’s a night for everyone to cheer for their favorite Blue Devil or Raider and then hope they both win the next eight weeks. At least you want to believe people feel that way.”
For the most part, they do.
The rivalry component to this game can’t be denied. That’s why the jawing, the jabs and the give-and-take happen. But the respect is there, too, which explains why football continues to grow throughout the community.
Both schools have invested in youth programs. Parents have invested in introducing their children to the game and bringing them to events like Friday night. Seeing a ring of fans around the field — three or four people deep in places — gave those kids a reason to want to be part of this when they turn 15, 16 or 17 years old.
By then, if parking on the streets is non-existent by game time the way it was Friday night, the legacy of this game will be intact.
That’s a victory for the Gem City.
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