Intense rivalry fuels passion and drama

Safiya Amin and Amanda Pyle

Eighteen years before Babe Ruth was traded from the Red Sox to the Yankees to ignite baseball’s most storied competition, and a full seven decades before Muhammad Ali first faced off against Joe Frazier, Westfield’s own momentous rivalry was born. In 1901, the Westfield Blue Devils and the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Raiders kick-started a rivalry on the football field.
Over the years, the bad blood has grown to encompass nearly all athletics. In 2018, the schools’ tension remains fervorous, and the first meetings of the year between the boys and girls varsity soccer teams on Sept. 15 were no exception.

“The games were absolutely electric,” Athletic Director Ms. Sandra Mamary said. “It’s not something that you experience in any other setting.”
Passionate fans formed seas of blue on alternating bleachers, filling the air with blue-colored powder and cheers of support. Unlike typical matches, the unique atmosphere served as an adrenaline boost for the players.

“The rivalry games against SPF motivate us,” senior soccer goalie Caitlin Amman said. “The games are much more physical and there are bigger and louder crowds.”
The spirited rivalry is not just limited to the soccer field. The schools’ girls varsity field hockey teams went head to head on Sept. 20, with Westfield coming away with a victory. Senior captain Savannah Stewart admitted that the matchup’s excitement affected the team’s performance on the field: “Facing Scotch Plains definitely motivates people to play harder. So we started at 100 percent because we wanted this win so badly.”

In addition to attracting attention on the field, the rivalry’s intensity reverberates off the field. Following last week’s WHS boys and girls soccer defeats, several SPF students posted pictures on Instagram mocking Westfield. The pictures’ captions included: “Daddy’s money couldn’t even afford the dub #wuckfestfield” and “Daddy’s money can’t afford a better soccer team.”
For the athletes, the belittling serves as an additional incentive to win. “The negative statements motivate us, making failure our fuel,” said junior Grace Friedberg, a member of the girls varsity soccer team. “It’ll help us strive to beat them the next time so we don’t have to see these comments again.”

Both Scotch Plains and Westfield have had their fair share of off the field incidents over the years to heighten the animosity. According to Mamary, recent occurrences include inappropriate chants and behavior from the Westfield fans that prompted administrators to intervene.

Friedberg agreed with Mamary, cautioning students to keep the rivalry in perspective: “[Behavior at the games] can be offensive to others, especially when people don’t think about their surroundings. I feel like we should keep that under control and not be as harsh about what we say.”

With the boys and girls varsity soccer teams clashing again at Kehler Stadium on Oct. 6, the rivalry is sure to be in full force, pushing players on all sides to play their hardest to try and get the win.

Catch the rivalry in action:
Oct. 6 – Girls varsity soccer,
2 p.m. at Kehler Stadium

Oct. 6 – Boys varsity soccer,
4 p.m. at Kehler Stadium
Oct. 9 – Girls varsity volleyball,
4 p.m. in Varsity Gym