Direct Rays: Lakeland vs. Panas, Carmel vs. Mahopac: Need I Say More?; Rivalry Week Trending on Twitter, Everyone’s Bitter

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Ray Gallagher
Ray Gallagher

Social media has opened a lot of doors for the youth of America to communicate with one another, and nine out of 10 times that is a good thing, but it isn’t necessarily a good thing when it comes to the build-up before a heated football rivalry that already has built-in juice. Back in the day, most of the bad blood between Lakeland and Panas only came to a head on a chance meeting at the old Hollowbrook Drive-In or the old Westchester Mall. Nowadays, those chance meetings are pre-arranged; thanks to Twitter and other social media outlets that allow for back and forth exchanges that sometime result in kids getting jumped.

I sure hope we have none of that when Lakeland visits arch-rival Walter Panas this Friday night with a Class A playoff berth on the line or when the Hatfields and McCoys get together this Saturday in Carmel to twist off yet another episode between the Indians and Rams, because neither rivalry games needs any extra juice. But Twitter is blowing up with trash talk as the local adversaries prepare to take the gridiron in the biggest intra-district Lakeland-Panas rivalry game in nearly a decade.

Yeah, that’s right; if Panas wins, the Panthers are in the playoffs and John Jay Cross River goes home. If Lakeland wins, Panas is out, and, from the looks of this ridiculous Piner System in place, John Jay (4-2 in league) is in and both Panas (4-2 overall, 4-1 league) and Lakeland (4-2, 3-2) are out.

So here’s my take: Panas has the biggest opportunity it’s had in quite some time to shed the red-headed step-sister label, placed upon it by its sister school, Lakeland. Yeah, yeah, go ahead and blame the media for that, but Panas has played second fiddle to Lakeland since the invention of the floppy disk. Symbolically, Panas has flopped before in these situations (more often than not, I’m afraid), but Friday can be the turn of events that Panther Nation has been seeking for quite some time #StickItWheretheSunDon’tShine!

Lakeland vs. Panas isn’t quite Mahopac vs. Carmel on account of the fact that there remains a shred of mutual respect and some inkling of approachable rapport between the two. When it comes to Mahopac vs. Carmel, which is also taking place this Saturday (1:30 p.m.) at Carmel, there is a general sense of “we don’t particularly like you” that comes across very clearly; particularly with the advent of social media where terminology like “degenerates” and female anatomy gets tossed about.

Maybe it’s just the “Kill ‘em, Rocco!” screams you hear in the Mahopac stands that sets things off, but the bad blood between Mahopac and Carmel runs Congo River deep.

“Just know that there is no love-lost between us and Carmel,” one Indian told me, while toning it down to appease the powers that be.

Thankfully, we don’t get as much of that in the Lakeland/Panas rivalry, but if there is a pulse in Panas after that 41-14 thumping the Panthers took at Somers last Friday; you have to hope its rate is ready to explode with the haughty Hornets coming down Stony Street and all points south.

This is the biggest Lakeland vs. Panas game I can remember since then-Panas QB Kyle Pierce (now the Panas Athletic Coordinator) plowed across the goal line from a couple of yards out to give Panas a huge win back in 2002 (I believe). For Panas, it’s basically been a comedy of errors since then. Since 2005, Lakeland is 7-0 against the Panthers, beating them by a combined 209-71 (21-7 2005, 34-7 2006, 24-0 2007, 48-19 2008, 21-18 2009, 33-6 2010, 28-14 2011).

That’s a lot of wounds to lick, and Panas can put a bandage on all that hemorrhaging this Friday, but there may not be enough gauze in Texas to clot the gash the Lakeland football program has pierced into the heart of Panas for much of the past decade #TakeYourBestShot!

As for Carmel-Mahopac: Putnam County’s biggest, baddest rivalry boils down to redemption. Banged-up Mahopac was embarrassed last season in a 29-13 setback. This year, it’s essentially role reversal. Battered Carmel is on the mend, toiling in a three-game skid and the Indians intend to pay the Rams back and reclaim the coveted Bryan Higgins Memorial Trophy.

Last year’s win was Rams’ first win over Mahopac since 2008. From 1974 to 1986, Mahopac went 10-3, dominating under former Coach Gerry Keevins. The next 10 years saw the two split at 5-5 before Carmel went on a tear, winning 10 of the next 12 under Coach Todd Cayea. Despite that run, the series, which allegedly dates back to 1932, has been relatively close since 1974, with Carmel holding a slight 21-17 edge. Mahopac intends to close the gap some.

“It’s a victory, a 100% guarantee,” Mahopac senior captain Mike Simone said. “It’s going be sweet holding that Higgins trophy and walking off their field smiling.”

Coach Donahoe/Langella may have him run some extra laps in practice this week for providing this scribe with the goods/fodder, but the affable, cool and confident Simone will likely be the one with the $h@+-eatin’ grin on his face about 4:00 p.m. Saturday.


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