Coloma and Watervliet… “Game On” and the rivalry continues
By Dave Vollrath
Tradition. Legacy. Rivalry. No matter what you call it, fans of local football know there is no larger gridiron game than when the Coloma Comets meet up with the Watervliet Panthers.
It is a game where multiple generations of young men have pulled on their helmets and strapped on their shoulder pads, previously in November but now in mid October as an early fall chill replaces the heat and sweltering weather they began this journey playing in, just a few short months ago. It is Coloma and Watervliet, as it has been for most of over 100 years, this is the final game of the regular season, and for some the final game of their football career. There is much more on the line than a win or loss, at least a year’s worth of bragging rights over your neighbors, your families, sometimes over your best friends.
This Friday night is the night of this game for Coloma and Watervliet.
Gang Green, Maroon Platoon. Green and Gold. Maroon and White. Coloma Head Coach Joe Stephens will once again be matching wits with Head Coach Jeremy Andrews. The last game of the regular season is here, and for these two teams it is as big as it gets.
COLOMA VARSITY FOOTBALL TEAM… (from the left): Front row – Michael Case, Cole Allmon, Izaiah Perkins, Josiah Glaspy, Taequan Shurn, Nick Eastman, Zach Colvin, Stacy Branscomb, Kevin Hearn; Middle row – Zach Gatchell, Nick Santarlas, Charlie Cullitan, Cole Alsup, Trent Brown, Cody Reese, Zack Lake, Tayte Colemon, Trenton Harrell, Caleb Ellis, Kenny Crowder, Kenyon Boyd; Back row – Mgr. Logan Roberts, coaches Curt Mead, Brian Klee, Todd Smith and Joe Stephens, Carl Bruins, Dalton Turner, James Clay III, Davion Bledsoe, Nathan Strunk, Jackson Hodges, Alec DeLaTorre, Sin’cere Taylor, Zach Goodline, Bryton Fitzgerald, coaches Kenny Ashley, Tim Rebb, Jason Crisenbery and Marshall Champion. (Photo by Shawn Mead Photography)
Both teams have been competing for eight, what seems like, short weeks. Coloma comes in with a record of 4-4, and the Panthers will be coming into the Coloma Stadium with a record of 2-6. If history has taught us anything about these two teams and playing in this game, once the ball is kicked to begin this game, those records can be tossed away and forgotten.
The Panthers will be coming into this game struggling, with no chance to reach the playoffs, for the first time since 2010. The Comets however still have a slight mathematical chance, with a win to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Either way the stakes are huge, because this will never be a game where you are just playing out the schedule.
The tradition of Coloma and Watervliet football dates back over 100 years. The first game between these two communities was played on November 4, 1909. The Comets won that game by shutting out the Panthers 12-0. It’s been told a couple of wagons got stuck going home after the game, but that has not been substantiated. But this is where the party started, and a legacy was born.
In the early years, the teams often met twice a year. It wasn’t until 1932 that they finally decided that playing once a year was enough.
From then on, these two frienemies met every year through the 2011 season. Due to the Comets moving into the Wolverine Conference, the collision of these rivals came to a screeching halt. Coloma and Watervliet did not face each other during the 2012 through the 2014 seasons.
In 2015 however, Coloma once again changed conferences, and moved into the Southwestern Athletic Conference, where a familiar foe was waiting, as Watervliet was already a member, and the rivalry of more than a century could once again resume, with all the previous pageantry as it always had. Just like an old friend you haven’t seen in a long time, not many words need to be said; in football you just go back to knocking heads with one another. Ahhhh that’s good, let’s go to banging!!
That first year back the game was played in the middle of the season, and Watervliet pounded out a 54-13 win. That wasn’t largest win in this series, as the Comets whooped up on the Panthers in 2007 and won by a score of 56-6.
The two teams played to a tie in the years of 1920, 1923, 1924, 1928, and 1933. One point differences were recorded in the years, 1925, 1949, 1950, 1952, and 2005.
In asking the locals, old timers, and die hard football fans, the greatest game of the season is held the final Frida