Okay, so Wayne Hills will visit Wayne Valley on Nov. 6 in what should be an exciting and well-attended football game. By now, most fans know the Indians are 8-0 while the Patriots come in with a 6-2 record. Both teams are also headed to the state playoffs, starting next weekend, where Hills will visit Roxbury while Valley takes on Morris Knolls in the first round.
For a few hours, at least, the two sides will be adversaries, in as much as a high school football game can be between two schools which share the same town. I’m sure there are plenty of people who will be at the game who may have attended Wayne Hills, but now have children at Wayne Valley, and vice versa. The coaches on both sides know each other pretty well and most maintain a good friendship.
Having grown up in Belleville, I always looked forward to the annual football game with arch rival Nutley. And even though the days of my being in high school are long gone, I’ll always be a Belleville fan, even though a majority of those associated with Nutley are very good friends.
This brings me to why I’m writing this particular blog. I cover Wayne Hills football and, admittedly, am good friends with many of the team’s coaches, as well as some of the player’s parents. I enjoy being around the team, for sure.
Wayne Hills and Wayne Valley doesn’t have a long rivalry, in terms of games played, but there’s plenty of intensity. I’ve written blogs all week long about Hills’ preparation for this game, without disclosing too much about the game plan.
As far as Wayne Valley, I have great respect for their program. I cover the school for other sports, including wrestling, and softball. But when it comes to football, while I’ll be standing on the Hills side on Friday night, it will be great to see Valley assistant coach, Chris Helm, before the game.
How long do I know Chris? Hmmm. Let’s just say I went to high school with Chris’ mother, the former Maria Federico. While Maria and I grew up in Belleville, Maria and her husband raised her two children in Nutley, so as Chris grew up, I had the privilege of covering his athletic endeavors as a football player and wrestler for those evil Raiders of Nutley High. (LOL).
And, get this? Chris’ wife is the former Kelly Rauco. I went to high school with Kelly’s dad, and uncle. The Raucos would also move to Nutley and Kelly was later a standout softball player for the Raiders. Kelly was a batterymate with Michelle Wlosek, who is currently a teacher at Wayne Hills and is the head softball coach at Wayne Valley. (Confused yet?) And yes, I covered Kelly for a few newspapers when she played for Nutley.
Kelly and Chris will be welcoming their first child, very soon. It’s a girl ! And I’m as happy for them as just about any other friend could be. Because, literally, I’ve known them for a lifetime. They’re both doing well in their professional career endeavors. Kelly is a Physical Therapist, Chris an educator, and both are up-and-coming coaches, with Kelly, as an assistant softball coach (of course!) at Wayne Valley while Chris, in addition to football, also helps out with Valley softball.
So, yes, it will be fun to see Valley and Hills play football on Friday night.
But it will be just as good to see a class young man in Chris Helm, and hopefully, Kelly will be there, too.