GOTW: The "real" neighborhood rivalry

While St. Rita and Brother Rice have been Catholic League rivals for over 50 years, the rivalry on the football field became “real” in 2003.  Prior to that year, there were many great battles between the neighborhood schools, but the 2003 game took the rivalry to another stratosphere!

The 2003 Crusaders came to Doyle Stadium with an unblemished (8-0) record looking to wrap up their first CCL Blue outright title.  The Mustangs came into the game with a (7-1) record and were looking to clinch a share of the title and spoil Brother Rice’s quest for a perfect season.

It was a cool, late-October Friday night and the RVs in the St. Rita parking lot were already in place by the time school ended at 2:30.  The stadium was jam-packed for the sophomore game, and the lot was absolutely buzzing with thousands of tailgaters anticipating the biggest game between the two schools in many years.  Current St. Rita varsity quarterback coach Mike Cummings, who quarterbacked the Mustangs that night, recalls, “The Rice kids were talking all week about how they were the best team in the CCL Blue.  They even called their defense (which had given up less than a touchdown per game on the season) Team Pursuit.”

At the conclusion of the sophomore game won by the Crusaders, the Brother Rice sophomore team began to celebrate at midfield on the SR, but the Mustang varsity charged out of the end zone to take the field, running right into the Crusader celebration and setting the tone for the night.

As kickoff of the varsity game approached, fans filled every corner of Doyle Stadium as nearly 10,000 people crammed into the stands and surrounded the field for the main event.

The Crusaders were led by senior quarterback Dan Nicholson, who had already accepted a scholarship offer to play quarterback at Northern Illinois University, and the Mustangs were led by junior running back Wade Weyer, who reminded many of the Mustang faithful of a certain St. Rita legendary tailback from the early 70’s by the name of Billy Marek.

You could cut the tension in the air with a knife as the ball was kicked off to start the battle for CCL Blue supremacy.  From the opening series of the game all the way through to the end, the St. Rita defense dominated the action sacking Nicholson 12 times on the night as the Mustangs claimed a share of the CCL Blue Championship with a convincing 30-0 victory over the Crusaders.

Since that 2003 contest, the rivalry between St. Rita and Brother Rice has only intensified with the Mustangs winning 8 of the 15 contests since that fateful night.

While the annual St. Rita/Mt. Carmel will continue to grab national attention as “The Great American Rivalry Series” Illinois game of the year, if you ask some of St. Rita’s current players, the Brother Rice game holds maybe even more significance in the neighborhood.

According to St. Rita junior corner Ray Bouye, “The rivalry with Brother Rice is even more intense than Mt. Carmel.”

St. John Fisher grad and current starting center for the Mustangs, Connor Cahill, added, “This game is about bragging rights for the neighborhood.  It’s one of the most physical games of the year and it’s all about pride in your school.”

With both teams coming into Friday night’s game still in the thick of the CCL Blue race, both school’s student bodies will surely be out in full force, including St. Rita junior John Soto. “I can’t wait for the game against Brother Rice.  It’s always one of the best games of the year.”

Watch St. Rita vs. Brother Rice on The U Too Friday, October 14 at 7:30PM. 

John Nee, Dean of Students, St. Rita of Cascia High School