WINSTED >> For the 20th or so time, Housatonic/Wamogo head coach Deron Bayer couldn’t recall exactly, the Mountaineers and Gilbert/Northwestern’s captains, head coaches and athletic directors met at the host school to take a look at the Berkshire Bowl Trophy, take a few pictures.
“More like 20-years,” said Bayer, who started as an assistant coach at Housatonic in 1997, when the tradition was already put in place. “It goes back to either the fifth or sixth Berkshire Bowl.”
The tradition was started when the rivalry reached a point of animosity between the two teams, said Gilbert/Northwestern head coach Scott Salius.
This season, Yellowjackets’ captains John Lippincott, Ryan Ott and Nick Pedrolini – Tony Ortiz missed for a family event – and Mountaineers’ captains Ken Weaver and Steve Kopcho, met each other, talked for a little bit and then everyone went out for breakfast.
The history between the two teams goes back further than the 28 Berkshire Bowl games, this Thursday’s will be number 29, they have played on Thanksgiving.
“For the longest time, outside of Torrington, these were the only two teams playing football up here,” said Bayer. He also said that the teams have been playing against each since the 1960’s or 1970’s.
This season’s game though almost didn’t happen as, in the last month, the Berskshire Bowl between Gilbert/Northwestern and Housatonic/Wamogo was in limbo, no one knowing whether the game would be played as a varsity game this season, because the Mountainners had forfeited four straight weeks in a rowdue to low numbers on the team’s roster.
Last week, the Mountaineers announced they would be forfeiting their fifth straight game against Nonnewaug, which was scheduled for Nov. 23, so that they could stay healthy enough to be able to play the Yellowjackets.
During the Mountaineers’ string of forfeits, Salius got on the phone and called Bayer about the Thanksgiving game.
“We just got on the phone and talked about thoughts and ways to play this game,” said Bayer. “It means a great deal, we couldn’t imagine not playing.”
Salius thought of the seniors on both teams.
“The game is important to both schools, it needed to be played for the seniors of both schools,” said Salius.
The importance of the game isn’t just between the two schools but the communities are very much invested in it.
“It’s important to the communities, people have been coming up to me and asking me if we were going to play this game,” said Bayer.
Even Salius, whose Yellowjackets are in the middle of a great season at 8-2 and have already clinched a Class M playoff berth, has been asked about whether this game would be played.
“The most asked question I was asked was whether there would be a Berkshire Bowl,” he said.
This will be the 29th Berkshire Bowl and the Yellowjackets lead the series record 16-12 over the Mountaineers. If the Yellowjackets win this year, it will be the sixth straight win the series, which would tie the 1985-90 Mountaineers, who won the first six Thanksgiving meets between the two schools, for the most consecutive wins.
The two will play on Thanksgiving morning at Van Why Field at The Gilbert School at 10 a.m.