Sep. 3—Sweat dripping off his brow, Riverside football coach Dave Bors took a momemt to take in the bedlam that surrounded him in his team's home football stadium on Sept. 1.
"I can't believe the electricity in this stadium," Bors said. "This is what it's all about."
The Beavers had just finished off a 34-31 victory over visiting Mentor in front of an estimated 8,000 fans at Riverside Stadium. Players and fans aliked remained on the turf long after the game had ended, apparently reluctant to turn the page on what was a legendary night not only in Painesville but also in The News-Herald area that featured some of the most memorable games ever for a Week 3 slate.
Not only did Riverside top Mentor for the Beavers' first win over the Cardinals since 1961 — not to mention handing Mentor its first loss to another Lake County team since 1999 when Lake Catholic did the trick — but additionally, Perry traveled to Kirtland and handed the Hornets their first regular-season loss since Oct. 21, 2016, a span of 57 straight regular-season victories.
"What a night," Bors said.
He was referring to the experience at his field, but the same words apply to what was going on over at Kirtland's Wilson Stadium, as well.
Four Lake County juggernauts.
Not a seat to be had at either venue, with fans lining the fences that surround both playing surfaces.
Bors was right. This is what it's all about. This is what makes Friday night football great.
Foreseeing a record night at the gate, Bors — who doubles as Riverside's athletic director — noted that his school rented chairs for the west end of the stadium for Mentor's band to spend the evening so as to free up seating for fans on the visitor's side.
"Our stadium seats 5,500," Bors said. "Well, we sold 4,000 presale tickets. We knew it was going to be a big gate. We ended up cutting off selling tickets at 6:30. We've never had to do that before.
"Literally every seat in the stadium was filled and people were lined around the field. It was amazing."
Bors added that 6,000 tickets were sold for the 50-50 drawing, with the winner taking home more than $3,000.
The scene over at Kirtland's Wilson Stadium wasn't much different. Granted, the Hornets' new artificially-turfed stadium doesn't have the same seating capacity as that of Riverside, but there were zero seats to be found well before the 7 p.m. kickoff.
"The atmosphere was awesome. Awesome, man," said Perry coach Bob Gecewich after his team's 24-6 win. "It was a big playoff game atmosphere. Both sides were packed, standing-room-only, people were really into the game. It was something."
Gecewich continued, harkening back to his days as an assistant coach at Marion Local in the Midwest Athletic Conference. He said Friday's game with Kirtland had a similar atmosphere.
"The atmosphere was awesome," he said. "Reminded me of all the big games that you see around the state or are lucky enough to coach in every once in a while. I'm hoping that this is what it continues to be and we build a true rivalry."
There were plenty of other headline games in Week 3 outside of the Perry-Kirtland and Mentor-Riverside games, such as Madison's win over North to give the Blue Streaks their first 2-1 start since 2018 and Gilmour's win over Hawken in what is becoming an even more heated rivalry than in the past.
There are seven weeks to go in the regular season, and then a playoff portion of the slate that is shaping up to be a memorable one if area teams keep ascending like they're doing so at this rate.
But Sept. 1, 2023 — Week 3 — might be tough to top.
"I think you acknowledge it. You don't ignore it," Gecewich said. "Some might say, 'Hey, it's only a Week 3 game.' But hey, it's a big win. A huge win for our program."
The same goes for Bors and the Riverside Beavers.
Where the Pirates and Beavers — and the area — go from here remains to be seen. But it certainly bears watching, even if you have to get to their games 90 minutes before kickoff to make sure you've got a seat.
If their games proved anything on Friday night, the wait is well worth it.