Weekend matchup denotes healthy football rivalry

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Weekend matchup denotes healthy football rivalry
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As if winning their first game of the season wasnt big enough, Bishop Ireton pulled off the explosive victory against cross-town rival St. Stephens and St. Agnes School at the Saints own house.

Cardinals head coach Tony Verducci was quick to credit his colleagues at Alexandrias other high schools, Dennis Randolph at T.C. Williams, Mark Gowin at Episcopal and David Holmes at SSAS, as first-class gentleman after Saturdays 49-13 trouncing of the Saints.

But it feels pretty good to have a win against one of them, he said.

This is a 365-day game; this is one you live with for the rest of the year, said a grinning Verducci. Its nice to have it in your hip pocket.

The 1-3 Cardinals out-flew the 0-3 Saints on both sides of the ball and on special teams, scoring early on and often in the SSAS home opener. The Saints did little to help themselves, turning the ball over to the Cardinals twice, allowing a blocked punt and a punt-return for a touchdown.

All the while the clusters of teenagers decked out in red or white shirts and body paint cheered in the stands, blowing plastic vevuzelas the noisy trumpets of World Cup fame and pounding buckets late into the afternoon. 

Saturday marked the Saints and Cardinals football squads 24th reunion on the field.  Ireton has claimed victory in 13 of those matchups, SSAS 10. The teams tied once, according to Bill Simmons,  Iretons athletics director.

He described the local competition as a friendly rivalry.

Its not the kind of rivalry where we have fights or vandalize each others campuses, Simmons said. Were rivals for three hours on Saturday afternoon and then were going to parties and movies with them the rest of the time. In some ways its the way you wish it would be in high school sports. You play hard until the game is over and then youre friends again.

Its also about bragging rights. With 83 rushing yards in 10 attempts, 64 yards in four receptions and one touchdown catch, running back Moses Webb can let his weekend performance do all of the talking. 

Still, the victory was nice coming against teammates from years past, the junior running back said. 

You always want to beat your teammates from across the street, he said. Its for bragging rights beating your neighbors.

When Ireton students learned through the Internet their counterparts at SSAS wanted to white-out the game, they started passing out the red body paint, Simmons said. Its harmless fun; the kind of variety the athletic director wants to see more of around Alexandria. 

Simmons is working with the citys other athletics directors to find more opportunities for their students to meet one another on the playing field. A Bishop Ireton-SSAS hockey matchup a year ago brought more fans to the Mount Vernon Skating Arena than Simmons had ever seen. 

A city-wide bean-pot style tournament would be good for everyone, he said.

Were really working on that with everybody on the city. Were trying to look for more opportunities for the four schools to get together, he said. At this point [our rivalries] are all good and no bad.

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