Barring an unforeseen financial intervention, two proud and tradition-rich city birds - the Northeast Catholic Falcon and Cardinal Dougherty Cardinal - will cease to fly at the end of the school year.

That news, which landed on Thursday, was a big blow for current students and alumni of both schools, the Northeast Philly sports scene, and the Catholic League overall. Football and boys' basketball membership in the league, which also will say goodbye to Kennedy-Kenrick, will drop from 17 to 14.

Overall, largely because of dwindling enrollment, both North and Dougherty have struggled to field championship-caliber teams in recent years. In football this decade, the Falcons are 34-74 and the Cardinals are 18-80. North produced the only two winning seasons, in 2006 and 2008.

Basketball, of course, has been an exception. North, playing in its shoebox-size gym known as The Pit, won the Catholic League crown in 2007-08. It's been nearly 40 years since Dougherty's last title, but the program has consistently been a winner – and playoff qualifier - in Mark Heimerdinger's 27-year tenure.

North also has a soccer program it can rave about. Last October, the Falcons, guided by Jerry Brindisi, earned their 22d Catholic League championship with a 1-0 overtime triumph against fellow powerhouse La Salle.

And how about Dougherty's football performance this year? The resilient Cardinals were 4-1 overall and 1-0 in the league going into Saturday night's Class AA tilt versus Bishop McDevitt.

Especially at North, it was a tradition for a son to follow in his father's footsteps and attend school at Torresdale and Erie Avenues in Frankford.

Bobby Butler, a 5-foot-9, 185-pound senior linebacker for the Falcons, is a good example of that. In his immediate family, his grandfather, Thomas, and father, Robert, Sr., graduated from the school in 1939 and 1979, respectively. A cousin, Mark, walked the hallways in the late 1990s.

Sadly, that baton will no longer be passed from one generation to the next.

In Northeast Philly, arguably the most heated Catholic League rivalry existed between Father Judge and Archbishop Ryan. But Ryan vs. North, especially in soccer, and Judge vs. Dougherty, particularly when it came to football in the 1980s, could also stir the competitive juices.

One of my best teenage memories was of Judge, my alma mater, taking on Dougherty in a playoff semifinal at Veterans Stadium in 1983. The Crusaders escaped with a 27-21 overtime victory before a frenzied crowd. The Cardinals lost only after a controversial, fourth-and-long OT throw by Dougherty's Richard Ashby barely escaped the grasp of Andy Garczynski and fell to the Vet's frozen carpet.

Many star hoops players were produced at 6301 North 2nd Street. Check out these names: Cuttino "Cat" Mobley, Kyle Lowry, DeSean White and Shane Clark. Mobley, a 1992 graduate, went on to star at Rhode Island and is about to begin his 12th NBA season with the New York Knicks.

In 2003-04, Lowry, a whirlwind guard at Villanova now playing for the Memphis Grizzlies, White (Providence/Northwood) and Clark (Villanova) led Dougherty to a 26-6 record and a second straight Northern Division championship. Over their last two seasons, that talented trio sparked the team to a 50-10 overall record and, including the playoffs, a 32-2 league mark.

Finally, the closing of North means an end to one of the area's fiercest and most anticipated Thanksgiving Day rivalries. This year, the Falcons and Frankford will mark the 80th anniversary of the holiday clash. North, a 14-6 loser to the Pioneers last year, holds a 41-34-4 Turkey Day advantage and a 42-35-4 overall lead.

Don't be surprised if advance tickets for next month's football finale at Large and Dyre Streets wind up being sold on eBay at Super Bowl-type prices. And event organizers may want to think of a bigger venue, say Lincoln Financial Field, to make sure no fan gets turned away.

Of course, that would take away much of the charm associated with playing in the heart of a proudly blue-collar neighborhood.

In the big picture, neither Dougherty nor North was a sports juggernaut. But both provided more than their share of unforgettable moments. Here's hoping a few more are served up before the lights go off for good in June.

Contact staff writer Rick O'Brien at 610-313-8019 or