The oldest continuous public high school football rivalry in the United States – Lower Merion vs. Radnor – has featured some pretty impressive names during the past 120 years.
Ted Dean, whose great running helped the Philadelphia Eagles win the 1960 NFL championship, has played in it. So has Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive back Emlen Tunnell.
The 121st meeting between these two teams kicks off Monday Nov. 6 at 6 p.m. at Radnor High School’s Prevost Field. Lower Merion holds a slight 56-53-11 advantage, but Radnor has captured 16 of the last 18 contests, including last year’s 49-8 win by the Red Raiders.
When the inaugural LM-Radnor game was played (Oct. 26, 1897), neither team wore uniforms. Players cut the grass and lined the field before the game. Lower Merion (then known as Ardmore High School) won, 10-4.
One of the attendees at the 1897 contest was Barney Fischer, who came to every LM-Radnor game until the late 1970s. Every year, he performed a ritual in which he rubbed a silver horseshoe on the shoulders of players and coaches to bring them luck.
Lower Merion – Radnor is not the oldest public high school football rivalry in the United States. That honor goes to Needham and Wellesley High Schools in suburban Boston – this rivalry began in 1882, but has not been held every year since.
By 1912, the LM-Radnor game was taking hold – more than 1,000 Lower Merion fans paraded down Lancaster Avenue that year to watch the game in Radnor.
In 1915, admission was charged for the first time (25 cents). The game ended in moonlight – police had to clear the field.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the rivalry was stronger than ever, attracting 10,000 fans. The game was moved to Villanova University’s new football stadium (built in 1927).
Marquee names began to appear on both rosters. Tunnell, the first African-American player elected to the Pro Football of Fame, played for Radnor in the 1941 contest.
Life magazine included a photo of the 1943 LM-Radnor contest, which showed Lower Merion players emoting after the Aces scored the game’s only touchdown.
Dean starred for the Red Raiders in the 1955 contest (although Radnor lost, 27-6).
In 1996, the centennial contest attracted national attention. In front of 6,000 fans, Lower Merion’s Kevin Dixon intercepted a pass in the end zone with 15 seconds left to preserve a 27-20 Aces’ win.
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