No one considers Maroa-Forsyth vs. Tolono Unity a rivalry
At least, not yet.
Even with Maroa and St. Teresa on a two-year hiatus and a month-and-a-half before the Trojans’ game with rival du jour Central A&M, tonight’s Maroa/Unity game is more novelty than rivalry.
It is a big game. There will be tons of people and local interest, with the No. 3-ranked team in Class 2A (Maroa) hosting the No. 2 team in Class 3A (Unity) in the first game on the Trojans’ new Field Turf surface featuring a new scoreboard with video screen.
“I would be shocked if it’s not standing room only with people lined everywhere around the field,” Maroa coach Josh Jostes said. “I’d guess no less than 3,000 people, and maybe more.”
But a big crowd doesn’t make a game a rivalry. Some longtime Trojan fans might still be gritting their teeth about the 1997 28-20 second-round playoff loss to the Rockets. And Tolono isn’t thrilled that in the three games it has played against Maroa since rejoining the conference in 2007, it’s
0-3. But other than that, there just isn’t a lot of history between the programs — or the kids.
“We’re in two different divisions, so there’s always going to be that off period,” Jostes said. “And they’re just not located close enough to where our kids grow up playing summer ball against each other.”
But the teams might be on a collision course that won’t be cushioned by the 62 miles in between. Maroa and Unity have stood above the rest of the programs in the Okaw the last three years — though Tuscola has also been right there. But Unity has won the last three Okaw Black titles and Maroa has won at least a share of the conference title the last seven years.
“I’m a big believer that it all starts with having administrators, a school board and a community that supports what you’re doing. Our schools are lucky to have that,” Unity coach Scott Hamilton said. “If you look at the structure of what they do, while (Maroa) may do some things philosophically different than us, structurally we’re pretty similar.”
After two years where the teams weren’t on each other’s schedule, last year’s game pitted the eventual champions in each division for a Week 2 game between the No. 1 team in 3A and No. 2 team in 2A.
That game may have been the start of something. In a 13-7 Maroa win, neither team could do much offensively. Unity made more mistakes and lost a game it probably should have won.
“I thought they (the Rockets) were probably the more talented team,” Jostes said.
Both teams graduated impact senior classes, but both schools are loaded again this year — and will be for years to come. And with Maroa and Unity likely ending up in the same conference after the Okaw upheaval shakes out, they’ll soon be playing each other with the conference title on the line.
Of course, every good rivalry has to have a signature game to kickstart it. With both teams featuring young nucleuses that will butt heads over the next couple of years, this could be that game.
Think about it this way — Maroa has pressure to win.
“Our administration took a big step forward with this facility and our program is reaping the awards,” Jostes said. “We want a good performance on it our first time out.”
Unity, on the other hand, would love to break its losing streak to Maroa. What better time than on the Trojans’ big night?
“We haven’t fared well against them since we’ve been back in the league, so this is a big game for us,” Hamilton said. “But the key for us is to go over there and treat it like it’s any other game. It’s not our new field and scoreboard. We need to do our best to not get into the hype.”