No More Fights With Heights

For decades, the final moments of games against Cleveland Heights could spark silence across crowded stands as onlookers watched the Tigers and the Raiders battle it out.

But what will happen to the Cleveland Heights rivalry now?

Following Shaker’s move from the Lake Erie League to the NOC, the high school’s rivalry with Cleveland Heights has lost some of its fervor.

Shaker did not play Cleveland Heights in football this year, and the Shaker versus Cleveland Heights basketball game was played on a neutral court in the Scholastic Play By Play Classic.

Shaker’s move to the NOC has left only three independent openings on the football schedule.  Athletic Director Don Readance said that because of this, “Shaker is kind of in a tight spot trying to find a date that will work for both schools.” Readance said schools sign two-year contracts to play each other in football over the course of two years. Shaker and Cleveland Heights would both have to have expiring contracts with other schools so that they could agree to one with each other.

River McWilliams, Shaker’s starting quarterback in 2006-07, recalled the rivalry.

“No matter how good they were, or how good we were, it was always the game we looked forward to because of the competitive rivalry. We could salvage a season just by getting a win against Heights,” he said. McWilliams originally lived in Cleveland Heights before moving to Shaker. “It was always weird playing against the kids I grew up with, he said.”

Despite acknowledging that the traditional rivalry might come to an end, McWilliams remained optimistic about the switch. “Switching conferences was better for the school, and we’re going to create new rivalries, especially with Mentor, who is in the NOC.”

Cleveland Heights Athletic Director Kristin Hughes described the rivalry as “tremendous.” She said, “We were really disappointed when Shaker left the Lake Erie League because we knew it would be really challenging in terms of scheduling.” Despite scheduling obstacles, Hughes said she hopes the rivalry will continue.

“Every year I work with Don Readance and I think we try to do what we can in terms of maintaining games in as many of our sports as possible,” Hughes said. “ I think it’s a good rivalry that we want to maintain in as many of our sports as we can right now.”

Cleveland Heights senior Andrew Bennett said the decrease in the number of games Shaker now plays against Cleveland Heights has made the rivalry less of a focus for students. “[The rivalry is] not really much anymore, just a bunch of people talking smack on Twitter,” he said.

However, McWilliams believes that the initial rivalry was already isolated by Shaker versus Heights football and basketball. “Our hockey team’s biggest rival was University School, and the baseball team’s rival was Mentor,” he said.

“A change in conference makes a big difference in sports because the rivalry is inevitably going to decline,” McWilliams said, “It’s not necessarily positive or negative, but it’s part of tradition and it’d be weird not to keep it going.”

A Version of this article appeared in print on 20 February 2012 on page 13 of The Shakerite

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