Foes on Thursday night. Friends on Monday night.
So goes the world of Berkshire County high school sports with co-op agreements.
Mount Greylock and St. Joseph high schools found themselves in this position over the last week. The Crusaders and Mounties were bitter rivals before, during and immediately after St. Joe's Western Mass. basketball quarterfinal win in Williamstown, but found themselves on the same side of the bleachers as the St. Joe hockey team played in a sectional semifinal in West Springfield three nights later.
The schools are in a co-op agreement for hockey, along with McCann Tech. Much of the St. Joe roster comes from the Greylock student body, including goalie Andrew Leitch. In front of both Crusader and Mountie fans, he made 53 saves and kept his team in the semifinal loss to South Hadley until the final moments.
Leitch's performance was a uniting factor among the students, including basketball players on hand Monday. St. Joe's Lavante Wiggins sat a few rows away from the glass at the Olympia Ice Center, while Greylock's Tyler Picard and Ethan Ryan were closer to the glass behind one of the goals.
"I've been friends with them throughout high school," Picard said of Andrew and Eric Leitch. "When you go watch those games, you see who stands out to you. Those two stand out to you every night."
Wiggins, whose Crusaders play for a Western Mass. Division III championship Saturday in Amherst, said he's seen hockey players at
"That's how it is," he said. "When we play each other, we're not friends at all. If we can get through after the game and become friends like we were, and like the game never even started, that's always a good thing."
It wasn't a perfect union, of course. Monday's hockey game was only days removed from St. Joe's 64-45 win Thursday night. While Wiggins, Picard and Ryan were pulling for the same side, they weren't seated together. Both Picard and Wiggins, though, said they knew each other through basketball and other sports, and Wiggins noted that the Greylock players wished St. Joe luck after Thursday's game.
"In the game, it's a lot different," Picard said. "You have some battles and it's heated at times, but after, it's all good."
The social-media landscape wasn't the best between fans of the schools after the basketball game. The usual trash-talking commenced, and it seemed that only one person was thinking hockey and unity at the time -- St. Joe senior Maddie Roulier.
She was on hand Monday night, hoping the combined Greylock/St. Joe crowd could match the volume of the South Hadley student section.
"Having friends on both teams, yeah, it's a rivalry, but coming together for this ... is really important," Roulier said. "If we're as loud as both teams were during the basketball game, we'll be crazy."
Only one player has seen the rivalry from both the hardwood and ice, though -- St. Joe junior Sam Thomason. A reserve for the Crusader basketball team this year, Thomason was Andrew Leitch's backup goalie last hockey season.
He went to four or five games this winter to support his former team -- including Monday's loss -- and said it's really not that weird to see the schools together in a co-op agreement.
"We're rivals for that night, and after that, we're friends," Thomason said. "It's just the competitiveness of everybody that plays a sport."
Roulier also kept the games in perspective, even before they had ended.
"After the game, win or lose, either [losing] team would be pretty upset about it," she said in Monday's second intermission. "But it's a high school game. People will eventually get over it."
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