Disabato: Stakes even higher in T.F. South-T.F. North rivalry
By Pat Disabato firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @disabato October 16, 2013 5:32PM
The T.F. South varsity football team takes to the field on opening night for their game against Crete-Monee in Lansing, IL Friday, August26, 2011. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 18, 2013 7:49AM
Tom Padjen has been football coach for 37 years at T.F. South.
He thought he had seen it all when it came to the District 215 rivalry between the Rebels and T.F. North — fights between players, brawls amongst fans, police escorts, some vandalism. Even a brazen attempt to heist T.F. South’s famous cannon, which was fired each time the Rebels scored but now simply sits at home games as a sort of monument. It’s worth noting the culprits were caught wheeling the cannon down Burnham Avenue on their way to Calumet City.
Then, of course, there are the many talented players such as T.F. North’s Mike Tomczak and T.F. South’s Pierre Thomas.
It’s a magnificent rivalry, for sure.
“There’s a lot of tradition,” Padjen said. “We tell the kids this is the one game you’re going to remember the rest of your lives.”
Friday’s tussle even more so.
When T.F. North travels to T.F. South, not only are district bragging rights and ownership of the Wooden Shoe and Mushroom Traveling Trophy at stake — more on that later — but with both schools 3-4, so are their dreams of qualifying for the playoffs.
The winning team will end the playoff hopes of the losing team.
“I don’t recall this ever happening before,” said Padjen, a whopping 215-147 during his career, including playoff appearances in 16 of the last 19 seasons. “There’s a lot at stake.”
The Rebels own a 36-19 career advantage over the Meteors, including wins in 22 of the last 24 meetings.
One of those two losses, however, occurred in 2011, when T.F. North departed Lansing with an overtime victory.
Translation: home-field advantage is worthless.
“They’ve been reminded of it,” said Padjen of the seniors who were then sophomores during that 2011 loss.
If recent performances matter, T.F. North has an edge in momentum and confidence.
The Meteors are coming off a thrilling 41-40 win Friday over Lemont. How big of a win was it for T.F. North? Well, not only did it keep the Meteors’ playoff hopes alive, it marked the first time they defeated Lemont in five tries. The previous four meetings? T.F. North failed to score a single point. Yes, four straight shutouts.
“The last nine minutes of the Lemont game we didn’t play very well, so I’m not so sure about any momentum,” T.F. North coach Artie Rogers said. “We were ahead 21 points with nine minutes to go and hung on. The kids were excited to have finally beat Lemont.
“With this game (T.F. South), you don’t need to say anything to the kids. They’re fired up. With both teams 3-4, it just adds to the intensity.”
And the excitement. Rogers expects the Meteors to have at least two fan buses transport supporters to the game. And the Rebels are certain to entertain a full house despite a disappointing 27-18 loss Friday to Tinley Park and a season that hasn’t measured up to their lofty standards.
“We have found some frustrating ways to lose ball games,” Padjen said. “It’s been disappointing, but the guys are fighting to get through it. This game gives us an opportunity to get back some pride.”
You’re probably wondering the meaning of the Wooden Shoe and Mushroom Traveling Trophy.
Here’s the deal. The wooden shoe is in observance of Lansing’s Dutch heritage and the mushroom an acknowledgement to Calumet City’s Polish heritage. The demographics in both communities have changed. But the significance of taking ownership of the trophy has not.
Pride still reigns supreme.
“We tell the kids, you’re going to remember the South game the rest of your lives,” said Rogers, who has guided the Meteors to two playoffs in four years. “But in this game Friday, you’re either going to end their playoff dreams or they’re going to end your playoff dreams. We want to be the team that wins and sends the other one home.”