With the 116th meeting of the Radnor Raiders and the Lower Merion Aces coming up on Saturday November 3rd, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the history behind the rivalry. As many know, Radnor and Lower Merion have the record for the oldest continuous public high school football rivalry in the country. The inaugural Radnor-Lower Merion game was played on October 26th, 1897. Every year since then, both teams have come together annually to meet on the gridiron. Lower Merion holds a lead over Radnor in the overall rivalry with a record of 56-48-11. Contributing to this success was the period between 1945 and 1956 when the Aces defeated the Raiders every year. Radnor had a ten year winning streak that ended in 2009.
As a senior at Radnor High School, I can speak to what this game means, not only to the football players and the coaching staff, but also to the students and the entire school. Radnor had a winless season in 2011; going 0-11 and falling to Lower Merion in the 115th meeting despite a 3rd quarter lead of 21-7. So far this year the Raiders are also winless. Several games – Archbishop Carroll and Harriton – were lost only by a point. The Raiders have a good team, but have been plagued by fumbles, interceptions and missed conversion opportunities. For the senior football players, this game is their chance to shine. I played football for Radnor in 7th, 8th, and 9th grades, but stopped because of an injury at the end of my freshman season. I considered coming back just for the honor of participating in the storied game. This game is the finale of the season and is undoubtedly the most important to the players, the coaches, and the students of Radnor High School.
Radnor has many fine traditions revolving around the Radnor-Lower Merion game, but perhaps none as storied as the pep rally. Next week – the week preceding the game – is a week of spirit days for Radnor Students. Monday is pajamas day, Tuesday is America day (wearing clothing to show American pride), Wednesday is “Wacky Wednesday”, Thursday is 80’s day (cue legwarmers for the girls and cutoffs for the boys), and Friday is LM day. On Friday, students will wear t-shirts that were sold to fund the pep rally. The t-shirts this year feature the theme of the rally: Harry Potter. Seniors have red shirts for Gryffindor, Juniors have green shirts for Slytherin, Sophomores have blue shirts for Ravenclaw, and Freshman have yellow shirts for Huffelpuff. Students can elect to get their name on the back of their shirts, however many choose a message, an inside joke with friends, or some other name to put on their shirts.
And then on Friday is the pep rally. But this isn’t just a few tired yawning students in the bleachers cheering for their team halfheartedly. The LM pep rally is one of the highlights of the entire school year for Radnor students. The players are introduced by grade – freshman then sophomores then juniors – and when it comes time for the seniors, each player is introduced individually. Each player makes a self-choreographed entrance to screaming and cheers. Then the acts begin. Some of the notable acts include the male teachers dance, the female teachers dance, the cheerleaders, the ravers (glow stick twirlers), the drumeline, the senior partners dance, the senior girls dance, and the senior boys dance. The pep rally lasts about an hour, and is the culmination of months of preparation and work by students and teachers. Radnor Superintendent Dr. Grobman is always on hand to make the most important announcement of the day: if Radnor wins the Radnor-Lower Merion game, Radnor High School students will have a half-day on Monday. This tradition is one that is not shared by Lower Merion, and is one of the reasons why the game is so coveted for students.
Later that evening, after the pep rally – which is unfortunately closed to the public, but which will be broadcast on the Radnor channel starting a few weeks after – the football players, the band, and students will gather on loop field at the high school for the bonfire. The football players ride in on Radnor fire trucks, and chants of “beat LM” can be heard pounding throughout the night. The seniors on the football team will come forward and a bonfire will be lit (carefully observed by the Radnor Fire Department).
This game is one of the cornerstones of the year for Radnor High School, and is not something anyone should miss. The 2012 game will be held on Saturday November 3rd, at 1:30pm at Lower Merion High School.