Let the Games Begin

Before there was a Londonderry High School, Londonderry students attended Pinkerton Academy in Derry. But when Londonderry students began going to their newly built high school in their hometown, their former classmates became, as expected, their “cross-town” rivals on the playing fields.

Taking advantage of that friendly rivalry – indeed, Derry and Londonderry were once one town – the two schools have fall sports, winter sports and spring sports competitions, with the school winning the most games against the rival taking home that season’s plaque or trophy as well.

So just a few days after fall arrived officially, and as mums and pumpkins and cornstalks began appearing on doorsteps and trees started showing their colors, this weekend brings Mack Plaque time once again, with the two schools matched up over one sports overdose weekend. The Mack Plaque weekend goes back to the 1980s, and the crowds at the weekend games attest to its popularity.

Even though the event has been lopsided competition-wise over the years, the original intent for establishing the Mack Plaque games in 1983 still sits at the heart of the events – to further a healthy rivalry between the two local schools and create excitement for a common series of annual games. Athletes talk about the Mack Plaque games in the month of school before they take place, pep rallies are scheduled, and both sides make up T-shirts in anticipation as well. That even extends into the broader communities, with emotion and intensity high as the athletic contests take place – and contribute to the chances of an upset in each game.

Mack Plaque brings out the school spirit, with pep rallies promoting home town and home team boosterism as well as attendance at the games. And while Pinkerton has won the Mack Plaque for more than a decade running, there’s always hope for Londonderry, the underdog in size, to snatch it away this and any year.

The Mack Plaque – and the Ball and Beeman trophies for other seasons’ sports – remain the focus of a healthy rivalry – and make far more sense than a rivalry that results in spending millions to build an auditorium in Londonderry so that students won’t have to use rival Pinkerton’s Stockbridge Theatre or Derry’s Opera House.

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