Fans cheer louder than ever. Athletes assert all their focus. Student sections scream from across the stadium. It’s the big rivalry game.
Olentangy graduate, intervention aide and head boys basketball coach at OHS John Feasel has been in the building to see it all. He grew up getting an education at OHS when it was all one building K-12 and Orange was not yet built. He not only got the chance to experience it as an adolescent, but he also had the opportunity to obtain a job at the school as well giving him the entire experience to see the district bloom, in addition to the rivalries.
“Every Big Walnut vs Olentangy game was a big game from 1954 until 2003, when Liberty opened. Big Nut was the Big Game,” Feasel said.
Math teacher Steve Geiger graduated in 1987 from OHS and proceeded to teach at both Olentangy and Liberty before coming to Orange when the building opened.
“When Orange was built, the rivalry definitely shifted. Big Walnut and Delaware were dropped as rivals and the rivalry lessened with Liberty,” Geiger said.
For years, Olentangy vs. Orange games have only gotten more intense. They’ve been rivals forever it seems. But why?
“The rivalry began immediately when Orange opened. Most of the population of Orange HS came from OHS, as the redistricting brought most students from OHS to Orange. When Orange opened, I would say 80 percent to 90 percent of the Orange students were previously enrolled in OHS,” Geiger said.
Math teacher and defensive coordinator Matthew Berndt has been a teacher and a coach for the football team for the past six years. He has seen the dynamic of his team change throughout the years as rivalry tensions increased and the team became more competitive.
“In preparation for big rivalry games, we don’t coach differently. However, we do bring in some alum players who won in past rivalry games. They talk to the athletes about the things such as the bragging rights they will get to hold over the players forever,” Berndt said.
Although the teams don’t typically prepare abnormally for big games, there is still a noticeable change by the time these games roll around.
“There’s always something special about rivalry games. You see it in the spirit of the players, coaches and fans. For the most part, everyone knows each other; chances are some of the boys are playing against guys they hung out with the weekend before,” Berndt said.
As the schools are close in proximity, the athletes are close on a personal level, as well.
“These are some of my favorite games, the crowds are great, the games are great and the rivalries are always fun,” Feasel said.
These are the games that players, coaches, students and fans all look forward to.
“I think the rivalries should never stop in this district. They are too important to our community, our students and our players to stop,” Feasel said.