Fans are delighted with the return of Brophy-St. Marie’s rivalry
PHOENIX – A historic rivalry between two Catholic schools will be renewed Friday night as the Brophy Broncos and St. Mary’s Knights face off in the first week of the 2021 school football season.
Schools have faced each other 55 times since 1959, but not since 2012.
“It was two Catholic schools together and one wants the prominence of being good at all sports,” said Frank O’Dwyer, who was part of the 1959 Brophy team that beat the Knights 20-18. in the first match of the rivalry.
Schools share an interesting and interwoven history.
Brophy College Preparatory, a Jesuit boarding school founded in 1928, closed in 1935 due to the Great Depression, prompting its male students to enroll in the valley’s other prominent Catholic high school, St. Mary’s, which s’ was converted to a girls’ school when Brophy opened.
During the transition, the Brophy boys brought their green sports gear, forcing the Knights to change their school’s colors from red to green. Brophy reopened in 1952, but it needed to be creative because its future rivals had taken on its school colors.
Brophy bought used sports equipment from the University of Santa Clara, the colors of which are red and white, and adopted Santa Clara’s mascot – the Broncos. Although Brophy players and fans alike eventually embraced the change, the loss of their beloved green was a sore spot that fueled the new rivalry.
The early duel seemed to favor the Knights, especially under coach Pat Farrell, who played for St. Mary’s from 1967 to 1969, winning two championships. Farrell then coached the Knights from 1978-2000, and again in 2003-07, leading the winning rivalry as a coach with 18 wins.
Farrell understood what it means to be successful both as a coach and as a player and knew there was a certain belief among the players that brought them up.
“You threw records and anything can happen on any given night, that was our belief,” he said. “It was that underdog attitude that I learned as a player with a sign that was always hanging in our dressing room, ‘We may not be the greatest, but we have a firm belief that we could to be the best. ‘
“And it was this challenge in front of you that you were going to do whatever it took to be the best. This attitude started in the 60s, which I was fortunate to be a part of, and it established the best tradition of all for finding a way to win a game.
It’s an attitude that led to Farrell’s great success as a St. Mary’s coach. Under Farrell, the Knights won four state titles and had a historic run in rivalry, beating Brophy 16 times in a row from 1980 to 95. The rivalry, Farrell said, was based on the competitiveness between players and players. They have connections to each other, but more importantly, the intensity and the mentality of “it wasn’t so much to win, you just hate to lose it”.
But the rivalry wouldn’t be what it is today without the nearby community that for decades has linked two schools just two miles from each other in central Phoenix.
“With great rivalry, that only happens if schools, teams, crowds and parents get into a competitive spirit, and that’s what they did,” said Farrell. “There was a lot of it from 4pm with the grills cooking and when you entered the pitch the smoke covered everything. Everyone took their seats at 6pm and as soon as you got out of the locker room you heard some noise and it was electric.
“It hasn’t happened at any other game in your life, including the state championships. It has become something special not only because of the teams, but also the communities involved.
The rivalry extended far beyond football, and for O’Dwyer, that first victory would have an impact for years to come.
“We had a great mood at Brophy and you can feel it in the stands,” said O’Dwyer. “They were excited about the game (against St. Mary’s) and what the team could do because we had a good team. We had to be tested and that test was St. Mary’s.
Both schools have undergone many changes over the years, from structure to class sizes. Since 2000, the Knights have won only two of their clashes against the Broncos. In 2010, they moved from AIA Division 6A to 4A as the Broncos attempted to become a 6A powerhouse.
They stopped facing each other again in 2012 due to the widening competitive gap. But Brophy coach Jason Jewell, now in his third year, called St. Mary’s coach Jose Lucero when he was hired last year to congratulate him on his work. That phone conversation turned into something bigger.
“I called him to congratulate him on getting the job at St. Mary’s because one is my friend and two is a graduate of St. Mary’s,” Jewell said. “Then we started talking about how cool it would be to play and we had a scrum last year. It didn’t happen because of COVID stuff, but after their season ended it said, “Let’s make it a real game” and (it) took me a few seconds to say yes.
With the game once again a reality, support from both sides has been significant with alumni rallying to their teams. The environment, camaraderie, friendships and families stretching back decades – all combine to make this a much anticipated kick-off to the season.
“For both schools, and I know I’m definitely speaking for St. Mary’s, we felt this game should be on the schedule,” Lucero said. “The support from the alumni has been great and people are really excited for the game. We made some special shirts for the game and they sold out instantly, so they are doing more.
“We felt it was a game that should always be played. It’s a big rivalry for a lot of people in our community. Their favorite memory comes from playing Brophy and that atmosphere, ”he said.
The Knights are hoping for a repeat of last year, when they returned to the state playoffs and won their first playoff game in 21 years. It won’t be easy for the Knights, but they’ll be focusing on something that could pay off big every Friday.
“We know we’re not going to be the biggest, the strongest or the fastest on Friday night,” said Lucero. “What we really care about at St. Mary’s is having kids who play football in a disciplined way. It’s one of those things that we lean on either side of the ball to play football the right way.
“It’s not about just one guy here, but the collective at the end of the day,” he said.
As for the Broncos, they are looking to bounce back from a 0-7 season that ended prematurely in order to protect their players from COVID-19. The team are excited for the season ahead with senior quarterback Elijah Warner returning from the injury he sustained last season and the squad facing fewer restrictions from the pandemic.
“Our buy-in has been fantastic since the end of last season, not only from the players but from our administration giving us more access to the weight room and things like that that we didn’t have. during COVID, ”Jewell said. “Our numbers in terms of depth and number of children in our program are better than they have ever been and our strength is better than it has been in a long time.
“We have 43 seniors, 40 juniors, 50 sophomores and 130 freshmen for football, so we are approaching 300 kids in the program. When I first took over in 2019 they had 189 so the growth has been there since I was hired and this senior class is something special, ”he said.
Both historic programs aim to make the rivalry the spectacle it once was and couldn’t be in the spring when the two schools faced off in basketball. COVID-19 restrictions limited crowd size and a return to normalcy seemed far away.
It will take time for the rivalry to reach its glory days, but when kickoff tonight at Central High School – Brophy’s new home ground for now – there will be a rich history and little love lost between the two parties.