Still plenty of heat in Cherry Hill rivalry

Cherry Hill West had new helmet logos for the Cherry Hill East at Cherry Hill West H.S. football game on November 26. (Elizabeth Robertson/Staff Photographer)

Maybe it's a color thing.

"I'm sorry, but if you are wearing red, I don't like you," Cherry Hill West senior quarterback Joey Argentina said after the last game of his scholastic career.

Argentina and his teammates were wearing purple, although it was tough to tell by the end of the football game on Wednesday night.

The guys across the field from Cherry Hill East were wearing red. Or they were sporting that shade before they each took home about two pounds of mud from the quagmire that was the playing field at Jonas C. Morris Stadium.

There are older rivalries in South Jersey football.

There are "better" rivalries, if measured by the caliber of play or the stakes - a division title, perhaps, or a few higher rungs in the Top 25 rankings.

But there are not many rivalries that mean as much to the participants as Cherry Hill East vs. Cherry Hill West.

That was clear again Wednesday night, in a Mud Bowl won by Cherry Hill West, 8-0.

"This is the greatest feeling in the world," Argentina said of the victory over his team's crosstown rivals.

There was a lot of talk, almost from the first play. There were more than a few post-whistle shoves. Before the end of the first quarter, the referee called all 22 players on the field together for a quick refresher on sportsmanship.

"We don't like them, and they don't like us," Cherry Hill West senior running back Tyrone Williams said.

Cherry Hill West broke out new camouflage jersey tops and new logos for its helmets that read "West Side."

Those were small things, but they underscored the Lions' desire to distinguish themselves from the Cougars.

There's a lot of history in the rivalry, which began in 1969. Cherry Hill East dominated the series for the longest time - winning 26 of the first 29 games - although Cherry Hill West has held the upper hand in recent years.

The Lions' victory on a cold, wet Wednesday night was their second in a row in the series, and 10th in the last 14 meetings. It also enabled them to keep "The Boot" - the Al DiBart Memorial Trophy, an old, bronzed cleat mounted on a block of wood.

"What are we going to do?" Cherry Hill East players chanted on the sideline during the game. "Get back 'The Boot.' "

Cherry Hill East senior quarterback Brandon Stern could barely walk during the week. He suffered a freakish injury in the playoff consolation game against Howell on Nov. 14 and had his left big toenail removed on Nov. 18.

"There was no keeping him off the field," Cherry Hill East coach Tom Coen said.

Stern, who has signed with Penn State on a lacrosse scholarship, wasn't sure how his injured toe was doing after the last football game of his career.

"I can't feel it - I can't feel anything," Stern said.

Stern said the rivalry meant too much for him to consider sitting out.

"I would have been out here if my leg was broken," Stern said.

He was covered with mud, as were most of the players. It was a cold night, but he didn't want to leave the field.

"I'm trying to soak it up, my last game and all," Stern said.

Down at the other end of the field, Cherry Hill West players were sliding in the mud and posing for pictures with "The Boot."

Cherry Hill East already was plotting a way to regain control of the trophy.

"This gives us something to think about for the next 365 days," Coen said.