By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
SAYRE — In a rather unique and entertaining event, UNICO hosted a coin toss to see which school would host the Waverly-Athens football game on Nov. 2.
Waverly Superintendent of Schools Eric Knolles was the emcee, and UNICO officer Nick Grego, a former Athens teacher and coach and longtime Waverly resident, performed the coin flip, after showing the nearly 100 people in attendance the coin, which had a red side and a black side.
Grego chose Waverly coach Jason Miller to call the toss, and Miller said, “Well, I’ll take Red.” Not to be outdone, Athens coach Jack Young chimed in, “I’ll take Black.”
And, black it was.
Athens will host Waverly Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. at Alumni Stadium unless one of the team qualifies for the playoffs. Both are mathematically alive in their respective quests for a postseason berth, but odds are slim either will qualify.
If the game is played, both coaches are thrilled to play for the first time since the 2012 season opener when Waverly edged Athens, 24-21.
“This gives us an opportunity to play a Valley rival, and we don’t get this opportunity very often,” said Miller. “This is a big deal for our community and our kids especially. The last time we played was 2012.
“We don’t have any kids who have experienced a Valley rivalry football game,” Miller noted. ”I’m excited for our kids to have the chance to play a Valley rival — it’s life-lasting. I think people will remember the outcome of this game … I don’ know that they’ll remember the outcome of the Norwich game.
“This is for bragging rights for a long time,” added Miller.
“Just look at this place right here,” said Young in reference to the 100 people at Yanuzzi’s for the coin flip. “I did not imagine this on my way here, it’s a packed house.
“This game is a great opportunity for two long-standing programs who have had their share of success to play,” added Young. “Maybe we’re both struggling a bit this year, so what a great opportunity, and a great charitable cause in UNICO.
“It will be a special night, no doubt,” added Young.
Valley football fans have griped for years about Waverly not playing Athens and / or Sayre, but Miller said scheduling now is different than it use to be.
“It’s not easy to schedule a game with Athens. Their schedule is on a two-year basis and our schedule is made every year.
“They’re locked in and it’s difficult to get the programs together,” he noted. “And, Section IV has a big say in our schedule.
“I think in the next couple years we’ll have a few more opportunities (to play Athens).
“Next year, we’ll be able to play a Week Zero game (the weekend teams normally play a scrimmage) and we’ll be adding a 10th game,” added Miller. “It’s going to afford us more opportunities like this.”
Young believes it will be a big weekend of football in the Valley.
“This is absolutely a rivalry I’d like to see continue,” said Young,
“I know darn well (Coach Miller) is not even thinking about Athens right now because he has two very worthy opponents to play, and we’re in the same boat.
“But, when that first week of November approaches, it will be an exciting time for both communities,” he noted. “I think it will be a great event.
“Sayre is having a tremendous season, and odds are they’re going to have a home football game on Friday,” Young added. “What a great weekend — a home playoff game for Sayre on Friday, and a border rivalry between Waverly and Athens on Saturday.”
Miller agreed with Young.
“It’s nice to see the resurgence in Sayre, and Athens has always been a tremendous program. It’s nice that all the Valley teams are something to talk about.
“It’s exciting to think football is relevant,” added Young.”Both our teams may be struggling, but this will be the last game for many seniors on both teams, and to give them something to play for makes it awfully special.”
Miller also has his eyes on a possible renewal of the Waverly-Sayre rivalry.
“I’d love to get Sayre on the schedule.
“The Week Zero thing for us starting next year is big. We’re going to have a lot more leeway,” said Miller.
“I think (Sayre coach) Kevin Gorman would want to play the game — there’s some intrigue there,” noted Miller in reference to the fact Gorman was a two-time all-state player for him a decade ago.
“At the very least, at the end when there’s an opportunity like this, let’s try to get our heads together and try to create an opportunity to play,” added Gorman. “That’s what we’ve done this year with Athens, and I think that can continue if we can work together and have the flexibility to schedule these games.”
IN PHOTO 1: Athens coach Jack Young (left) displays the black side of the coin that gave Athens a home game against Waverly and its head coach Jason Miller (right). IN PHOTO 2: Nick Grego performed the toss of the coin. IN PHOTO 3: From left: Waverly Superintendent of Schools Eric Knolles, Waverly AD Rich McIntosh, Waverly Deputy Mayor Andrew Aronstam, Athens football coach Jack Young, Waverly football coach Jason Miller, Athens AD J.B. Sullivan, Athens High School principal Cory Mosher, and Nock Grego (far right).
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