This evening, students from and high schools will get a chance to see something that has become rare: a varsity football matchup.
The neighboring schools, with a spirited rivalry going back generations, have not faced off in three years. The last time they played, on Oct. 10, 2009 at Greeley, the Foxes defeated the Quakers 19-15, according to published reports from that season.
The reason for the hiatus was caused by the teams being in different Section 1 classes. Beth Staropoli, Fox Lane's athletic director, explained that her team was in Class AA while the Quakers were in Class A, which precluded games. The schools are given their assignments from the state, which are determined by population changes. This year, the Foxes are back in Class A.
Prior to class changes, the football teams faced off regularly, including for homecoming.
Folks who remember the matchups recall that chances to play were big.
Years ago, Staropoli recalls, it was "one of the biggest rivalries around." She also recalls that beating the Quakers was a big deal, saying "for us, it was like winning a bowl game."
"Well, let's put it this way,' said Greeley Interim Athletic Director Peter Kuczma, "In the past, the competition between the two schools in football was very strong."
Kuczma, who coached the Quakers in the 1970s-80s and served as athletic director from 1989 to 2002 for his first stint, recalls that game turnout was high, and could reach about 5,000.
The rivalry goes back decades, and even predates the 1950s consolidation that created Fox Lane and the Bedford Central School District.
"It was fierce, fierce, fierce," said Pat Rosafort, a New Castle resident who graduated from the old Mount Kisco High School, one of Fox Lane's predecessor schools, in the early 1950s.
“It was huge. They were our archrival in everything,” said New Castle Town Justice Douglas Kraus, who went to Greeley in the 1960s. He remembers that there were a lot of people at Fox Lane games.
The matchups weren't without, however, as folks with ties to both communities recall vandalism incidents at each others' schools.
Kuczma, wary of things getting negative, does not call the schools' relationship a rivalry because he feels that it connotes bad sportsmanship. He thinks of the event as being a competitive game where the teams "will play their hearts out."
Staropoli is optimistic that the students will behave.
One dynamic that has changed over time, according to people interviewed, is that the students at each school have chances to interact and socialize more, particular given the rise of online social media. Greeley and Fox Lane students also play together on recreation teams outside of school, people interviewed said.
“They don’t know the history of the rivalry," said Greeley Coach Tim Sullivan, who played as a Quaker in the 1980s and whose wife is a Fox Lane alum. "The coaching staff does because we played in it.”
He added, “Basically, it feels more important to us, personally, than it would to them.”
The Quakers' coaching staff includes alumni from both schools. Sullivan said.
Preparing for Friday, Sullivan explained that the team is focused on whoever they play.
“It doesn’t matter who it is," he said of the preparation. Also also said that they are excited for getting what would be their first season win.
Fox Lane Coach Steve Quinn is looking foward to the game.
“I think it’s great for both communities. It’s just great for high school football, so I know we’re excited. I’m sure they’re excited, so we’re looking forward to it.”
Asked about preparation, Quinn said they are approaching it with the "same level of focus" as any opponent.
The matchup with Greeley has attracted more excitement from the players, however.
“I think you hear more so than usual," Quinn said.
The game starts at 6:30 p.m., with Fox Lane hosting.
Other teams from the schools are also facing off. The JV football teams play on Saturday at 9:30 a.m., at Greeley. The varsity girls soccer teams will plays Friday at 4:30 p.m., at Greeley, while the schools' JV teams play at the same time at Fox Lane.