Monday, October 25, 2010

La Salle, begrudgingly, to play Sabre game against Christian Bros. Acad.

Former La Salle Institute football players Nolan Flike (left) and Lou DiNovo (right) pose with the Sabre prior to the 2009 meeting against Chrisitan Brothers Academy. La Salle won that game, to retain the Sabre, but CBA is poised to reclaim it after this week's crossover game. (Photo by J.S. Carras - The Record).

When Christian Brothers Academy lost at Troy High Saturday afternoon in a Section II Class AA quarterfinal football game, it opened the door for the resumption of one of the Capital Region's premier rivalry games: the battle for the Sabre between CBA and its bitter rival, La Salle Institute.

Sunday, La Salle head coach Al Rapp said that he would refuse to have his team play in the game, but by Monday, his stance had softened.

"I guess we're playing," said Rapp on Monday. "But I'm not exactly pleased with the whole idea."

La Salle heads to Christian Brothers Academy for a Week Nine crossover game Friday night at 7 p.m. It will be one of the most talked-about crossover games in Section II history.

CBA head coach Joe Burke, who sits on Section II's scheduling committee, declined to comment Sunday, stating that the official Section II crossover schedule had yet to be announced.

The issue for Rapp is not that he fears losing the Sabre. He fears that Section II is breaking traditional crossover scheduling procedure.

The criteria for scheduling crossover games is generally based on finding equally matched opponents for a competitive game. In Rapp's mind, CBA, which was a No. 4 seed knocked out in the opening round of the Class AA quarterfinals, should play Schenectady, the opposite No. 4 that lost in the opening round.

La Salle would then match up against Bethlehem, a team that like La Salle, did not qualify for the postseason.

“We've never been one to back down from anybody,” Rapp said.

The Cadets, which finished with a 1-6 record in the regular season and were outscored 240 to 75. La Salle defeated winless Albany in a crossover game Friday night, 33-13.

Prior to 2010, La Salle was a perennial Section II title contender under Rapp's guidance, having appeared in a local Super Bowl game five times since 2000.

CBA went 4-3 in the regular season under first-year head coach Joe Burke, clinching the No. 4 playoff berth in the Empire Division. The Brothers were tied in the second quarter with Liberty Division No. 1 Troy, the No. 7 ranked Class AA team in the state, before losing 43-21 in Saturday's Section II quarterfinal.

As Rapp said, La Salle has not been one to back down from a challenge in the past. The Cadets have regularly scheduled the top teams from Sections I and IX when Section II teams played regular season games against teams from out-of-section.

La Salle, which has an enrollment of 420 students this year according to the 2010 BEDS report released by the New York State Sportswriters Association, is dwarfed by every other school in Class AA, all of which have enrollments of at least 1,000 students, save for CBA, which has 440 students.

The CBA vs. La Salle rivalry dates back to 1932, but has been suspended on occasion. La Salle dropped down to play in Class B in 1984 and the series was scrapped until 2001 when the Cadets returned to Class AA. Although the Brothers hold the series advantage, 32-21-6, La Salle has dominated since the resumption of the game, winning all eight contests and maintaing control of the Sabre, the sword that is presented to the winning side.

Friday's game will mark the 60th time the teams have met on the gridiron.

Adding intrigue to the rivalry were the rumors in late 2009 that the two schools were considering plans for a merger, as enrollment is down at both schools. CBA’ s 2009 enrollment fell 10 percent from 2008 to 352 students and La Salle’ s has steadily decreased in recent years, from 650 in 1997 to 402 in 2008.

The boards from both schools met on Oct. 20, 2009 and decided to remain separate.

"I don't think it's the right thing to do, but we're going to go over there and we're going to play the game," said Rapp.

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