It started with Bob Barbieri and Jack Henzes. Forty-nine years later, it’s up to Pittston Area coach Jim Norris and Wyoming Area coach Randy Spencer.
The Patriots and Warriors will meet for the 51st time — 49th consecutive season — at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 6 at Wyoming Area’s Anthony “Jake” Sobeski Stadium in West Pittston. Currently, Wyoming Area holds an all-time series lead of 26-24.
Both Spencer and Norris have been around the rivalry since their childhood. They each played for their respective schools. Spencer was a player in the 1980s, while Norris is a graduate of Pittston Area in the early 2000s. Norris turned in one of the best defensive performances in the series with 17 tackles in a 14-13 overtime win in 2000.
He believes this rivalry compares to the one against Lafayette while playing at Lehigh University.
“This is the essence of high school football,” said Norris, who is in his second season as the Pittston Area head coach. “At the core of high school football and its foundation is local rivalries. In the years following, these kids will be working together and active members of the community.”
Spencer said it’s a privilege to have been a part of the rivalry for so long.
“I’ve been able to develop a personal connection with the game,” Spencer said. “Our rivalry is special. It’s all about the community support of the game leading up to it and even on game night.”
For the third straight season, the series features a pair of teams with sub-.500 records. The Patriots are still looking for their first win of the season. The last time the Pats were winless was in 2010.
For Wyoming Area, Spencer said his players must finish games. Against Berwick a month ago, the Warriors scored the first 10 points of the game only to let Berwick score the final 22 and get the win. Against North Pocono in the third week of the season, the Warriors allowed a touchdown in the final minutes of the game to lose 26-21.
Two of Wyoming Area’s wins came in back-to-back games in the middle of the season. The Warriors rolled Tunkhannock 49-6, and then thumped defending Class AAA champion Crestwood, 32-7.
“We have to finish,” Spencer said.
Pittston Area is the only team in District 2 without a win. Heading into the Friday, Oct. 23 game with Berwick, the Patriots have been outscored 254-83 in seven games this season. There have been some highlights, including a shootout loss to defending Class AAA champion Crestwood.
The Patriots’ best chance to win this season, besides against the Comets, came when Tunkhannock scored a touchdown in the last minute to beat the Pats 21-14.
Once game week rolls around, it’s a different atmosphere, both coaches stated. Whether it’s the pep rallies before the game or what happens during, the best of each team and fan base is left begging for more.
Both coaches are tasked with keeping the team’s energy up all season long. This game, however, isn’t that difficult to get the kids fired up.
“I think as a coach you wish the energy was that way the whole season,” Norris said. “It’s definitely a different atmosphere.”
The last time a team won back-to-back games in the series was in 2008 and 2009. Since then, the team’s have traded wins. Last year, Wyoming Area was a 35-6 winner behind Jeff Skursky’s four touchdowns.
In the inaugural Pittston Area-Wyoming Area clash, the Patriots, who were unbeaten at the time, used the four horsemen – Charlie Turco, Charlie Graziano, Eddie Booth and Eddie Brennan – to upend WA, 28-7, in 1967.