This is the ninth in a series of articles from the Gill Stadium Centennial Committee leading up to the ballpark's 100-year anniversary celebration on Sept. 8.
One year they were teammates, the next, opponents.
With the opening of Manchester Memorial High School in 1960, the student body was predominately populated by former Manchester High Central pupils, among them members of the 1959 Little Green football team.
On Sept. 23 of that year, those former Central players lined up against their ex-teammates at Athletic Field — later to be renamed Gill Stadium — for the first game between the Little Green and the newly formed squad known as the Crusaders.
It was fitting that the game would take place at the then-47-year-old stadium, for in addition to being the premier facility for outdoor athletics in Manchester, it was located on Valley Street, which served as the dividing line between the Memorial and what remained of the Central school districts.
By sheer quirk of addresses, the better running backs from the 1959 Central team remained with the Little Green while the superior linemen joined the Crusaders. Apparently more impressed by Central's skill than Memorial's size, the Union Leader's sports editor at the time, Joe Barnea, predicted the Little Green would win by two touchdowns.
The head coach of Memorial's fledgling program was Bob Jauron, father of Dick Jauron, who would go on to become an NFL player and coach. Though long-established, Central's program had a new head coach, as well, Bill Hall having joined the Little Green after working at Woodbury High School in Salem. Both coaches were Nashua natives.
Wally Rozmus, Memorial's starting quarterback that first season, recalls the team having to leave Memorial's not-yet-finished campus to practice, the area downhill from the school that now includes Lemire Field and Chabot/McDonough Stadium still being swampland.
In August and early September, the Crusaders worked out on a field belonging to old St. Anthony High School. But the acting commander at Grenier Air Force Base (now Manchester-Boston Regional Airport) had a son on the Memorial team, Paul Evans, and he invited the Crusaders to use the base's field and shower facilities. Team members piled into upperclassmen's cars — Danny O'Neil's 10-year-old Ford Fairlane was particularly popular — for rides to and from the base.
By the night of Sept. 23, the Crusaders were ready.
At Central, meanwhile, recalls Mike Kobilarcsik, a captain and two-way starter on the 1960 team, the Little Green had mixed emotions about playing against former teammates who remained close friends.
A reported 8,000 fans showed up to see the historic match-up, a turnout, Rozmus recalls, that initially had the Crusaders awestruck.
They got over it, with Rozmus directing Memorial's ground-based attack behind that big offensive line.
It was a Central fumble that got the Crusaders rolling, Memorial recovering at the Little Green 48-yard line in the second quarter. A 17-yard pass from Rozmus to Jim Psaledas, consecutive 8-yard grabs by Andy Kyriazis and Dave Gladu, and a Bob Walsh run to the 16 set up the game's first touchdown. Walsh did the honors on a 16-yard sweep around left end, then followed a push from his line into the end zone for the 2-point conversion and an 8-0 lead.
Central's quarterback, Bill McKee, responded immediately. McKee carries for 37 and 16 yards set up a Kobilarscik TD run, which put the Little Green in position to tie the game.
Kobilarscik attributes what happened next to teenage bravado. He could have run around the end for the conversion, he recalls, but instead he attempted to run over former teammate Ed "Big Daddy" Wynot. His attempt failed, and Memorial maintained an 8-6 lead.
In the second half, Central twice threatened to score, but on both occasions the Memorial line — led by the indomitable Wynot — held, and time ran out on the Little Green.
"Memorial won," Kobilarscik said while recently recounting the game, "and they deserved to."