Sidelines: The Cony-Gardiner field hockey game showed the best aspects of the long-running rivalry

Gardiner celebrates after Savannah Brown, far right, scored a goal on Cony to put them up 4-3 and win the Drive Out Cancer field hockey game on Tuesday at Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

On Tuesday night at Hoch Field, field hockey teams Cony and Gardiner showed that their rivalry is about more than playing for an old boot.

It is something more.

Trailing 3-1 at halftime, the Tigers got three unanswered second-half goals from seniors Addison Carter, Dewey Clary and Savannah Brown to claim a 4-3 win. With the victory, Gardiner picked up the rivalry prize, an old western-style boot that looks like it was ripped straight from John Travolta’s trailer for the 1980 film “Urban Cowboy.” Tigers could claim the boot since 2016.

“It was a crazy game, we were down early, and it was a crazy comeback,” Clary said. “We really had to pull ourselves together… It’s a rivalry game, it’s the biggest game (of the regular season). And we said to ourselves: ‘We want this boot’. The boot is the most important thing. We wanted it so badly.

The Tigers have improved to 3-0 this season — they finished 7-8 last year with a trip to the Class B North quarterfinals — and sit just behind Lawrence at the top of the conference standings. Strong teamwork and athletic training make up for the lack of experience, said Gardiner’s coach Sharon Gallant.

“I don’t have a lot of veterans,” Gallant said. “My front line, three out of four are basketball kids that I picked up last year. Savannah Brown, McKenna Johnson, Megan Gallagher, they’re all kids that really come in to play now. Once that they’ve had this year under their belt, they’ve just been phenomenal.(Transfer from Waterville) Raylee Gilbert was a gift.She’s been a great addition in so many ways, super positive.(Team) appreciate each other, they play well together. I go into the locker room, they all sing. I like how they all get along. I don’t have any superstars. Every night someone (different) can come in and play really well.

The Rams (1-2) have shown an ability to produce with multiple markers. On Tuesday night, sophomore Abby Morrill scored two goals, while junior Elise Cunningham – who scored three goals in two quarters in an 8-1 win over Erskine Academy last week – added another .

“These are the types of games you want to be in, neck and neck, back and forth,” Cony head coach Holly Daigle said. “Of course you want to be on the winning side. But we did so many things really, really well tonight that translated into some great goals. Mistakes were also made, but we are in the third game. We have a lot of season left and I’m excited about the things we can build on.

Both teams enjoy the advantage of playing on new grass pitches this season, and it shows in the style of play. Cony and Gardiner were able to move up the pitch quickly, often using long passes to their advantage, setting up occasional breakaways for attackers.

The evening was not just a celebration for the winner, it was also a celebration of something both programs and schools have achieved together. It was the 14th Drive Out Cancer game, a tradition started by former field hockey coach Cony Krista Chase and former field hockey coach Gardiner Moe McNally as part of a service project to raise funds for the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care in Augusta.

In the years that followed, the football, soccer, and cheerleading teams of both schools also contributed to the effort, raising funds through entrance fees, 50/50 raffles, and donations. It was announced before the game on Tuesday that the two schools had raised more than $120,000 over the past 14 years.

“I love playing the Drive Out Cancer game, just the great cause we’re doing,” Clary said. “Having honorary captains (before the game). It just makes it such a special game, more than just a rivalry game with no advantage.

Both teams had honorary captains for a ceremonial coin toss before the game. For Gardiner, it was Delene Jarvi, grandmother of forward McKenna Johnson, who has been in remission from breast cancer for 21 years. Cony’s honorary captain was Brad Hendrickson, a 1984 Hall-Dale graduate and father of Cony midfielder Caroline Hendrickson, who was battling stage 4 stomach cancer. not be won on the court Tuesday night, Cony and the Hendrickson family celebrated a major victory, as it was announced that Brad Hendrickson showed no signs of cancer during his last positron emission tomography (PET) scan, many to the delight of members and fans of both teams.

One of the Cony Gardiner field hockey trophy boots is seen before the Drive Out Cancer game on Tuesday at Gardiner’s Hoch Field. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“(Tuesday night was) all the big components,” Daigle said. ” Rivalry. The boot. The hunt for cancer. Recognizing our honorary captains before the game, under the lights. The energy of the crowd is all that makes this game so fun.

“When I realized the money we sent (to the Alfond Center), just from a group of kids, when you have over $120,000 over 14 years, when you send that kind of money to the Center Alfond, that’s just amazing,” Gallant said, getting emotional in her response. “I’ve known Brad forever. That he’s cancer-free right now is just phenomenal. It’s just phenomenal.

“That’s really what it’s all about,” added Gallant. “It’s not just about winning and losing. It’s such a cool event. I can’t say enough good things, and to thank Krista and Moe for saying 14 years ago, ‘What if we did something better? What if we made more than one (rivalry game), but a collaboration agreement? Hell, if that doesn’t just teach kids what we really want them to know, huh? »

As the players and coaches left the field, Gallant had to be reminded to grab the boot, which sat on the end of the Gardiner bench.

It was an element easy to forget. Tuesday night was more than a boot.

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Catherine J. Martinez