RIVALRY RENEWED - AGAIN Massapequa, Berner alumni take to the pitch in return encounter by Nicholas Koliarakis
Photo by Igor Bishko and provided by Floyd Kenyon
The sporting rivalry between Massapequa and Berner High schools was very much an integral part of life in Massapequa from the middle 1960s all the way through the latter part of the 1980s.
For more than two decades, whenever Berner's Bisons and Massapequa's Chiefs took to the field or court to oppose each other, it was always a special occasion - no matter what the sport. Being crosstown rivals in the same school district, it was only natural that the games that they played would be more intense than any of the others in a given year for either of the two schools. Of course, the soccer games were no exception to this rule.
When Berner ceased to exist as a high school circa 1988 (it is now a Middle School within the Massapequa School District), the rivalry between the Chiefs and Bisons became but a memory for those who lived it. The soccer matches, not to mention the ever popular football and basketball battles, were no more.
That was until two years ago, when the boys' soccer alumni from Massapequa and Berner took some initiative and got together at John J. Burns Park to pick up where they left off as teenagers in the first alumni game between the two schools.
Although intra-alumni games at high schools are commonplace in many sports, it seems a virtual rarity for alumni from two rival schools to get together and compete against one another. But in this case, it was not too difficult a task given the fact that many of these players had known each other since the early 1970s. They had played alongside each other on Massapequa Soccer Club travel teams and also against each other in high school.. Although some of the players have moved away from Long Island, the others who have stayed still see each other fairly regularly.
The game obviously meant a lot to the participants. Although the turnout was not quite as large as it was two years ago, they came from as far away as Florida,
Massachusetts, and upstate New York to once again revive the rivalry between the Mighty Chiefs and "Rolling Red".
The inaugural match was won by Berner, who beat their Massapequa counterparts, 4-2. Needless to say, the Chiefs' alumni were looking for revenge on May 25th when they met Bison alumni in the return encounter at Burns Park. And they got it, with a 1-0 victory.
The Massapequa team included several members of Massapequa's Long Island championship team of 1981. Among them were Floyd "Flip" Kenyon, who had doubled as a placekicker in his high school days and went on to play both soccer and football at Wake Forest University. Also present was Ricky Fatscher, who played goalkeeper at Syracuse University, and also Hofstra alumnus Bruce Stegner.
But for all of the "senior experience", it was a younger alumnus, John Cardone, who scored the lone goal of the game midway through the first half after latching onto a through ball from Eric Schmidt. Fatscher starred in goal for the Chiefs alumni with a sure-handed performance. According to Stegner, Fatshcer played "outstanding" and "never missed a step".
Both teams had chances, including a first half breakaway opportunity for Berner in the first half which ended up going for naught.
What was salient about the gathering (at least to this writer) was not so much that the participants had played soccer together as youths and had kept in contact for so many years, thanks in part to these alumni games. But these players, in large part, were the first products of Massapequa's youth soccer movement in the early 1970s and rode the first wave of the American soccer boom of that decade when Pele and the Cosmos were among the chief catalysts of the game in the U.S. and gave it exposure as it had never seen before. Stegner estimated that about a third of those who played in this year's edition of the rivalry are still coaching and/or playing soccer at some level.
It seemed safe to say that a good time was had by all, regardless of the scoreline. Moreover, those who played in the match want to continue the rivalry next year. While it has yet to be determined whether this game will come off, Stegner says the chances are good that it will.