High School Sports

How one of Centre County’s oldest rivalries brought people together to relive history

Dave O’Shell and Steve Wiser sat together at Robin Hood Brewing Co. in Bellefonte, arms around one another, sharing laughs and memories as they watched the digitally restored film of the 1969 Bellefonte vs. Bald Eagle Area football game.

The rivalry between the two teams is one of the longest-running in Centre County, dating as far back as 1956. But on Thursday night, O’Shell, who played for the 1969 Bellefonte team, and Wiser, who played for BEA, were friends — not rivals.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of the rivalry’s most exciting games, Bill Luther Jr., John Urbanik, BEA’s Eagle Ambassadors nonprofit education foundation and a host of others on both sides raised money over the summer to digitally remaster and restore the 1969 game tape, belonging to Luther’s father, legendary Bellefonte coach Bill Luther Sr., and make it publicly available on YouTube. They premiered it Thursday night, a week before this year’s installment of the rivalry — now called “The Curtin Bowl.”

For Luther Jr., a member of that ‘69 Bellefonte team, seeing former rivals like O’Shell and Wiser together, enjoying each other’s company, was the reason behind the whole project..

“It is unfortunate that often we hear of the ugly side of high school rivalries,” Luther said. “How they divide us, make for bitter feelings. But in reality, good healthy rivalries unite us, create common bonds and do many things. This night is a perfect example of what good rivalries are all about.”

Once enough money was raised to cover the expense of preserving the game, the tape was edited by Bellefonte Area High School’s video production class to include play-by-play and color commentary by Luther and BEA’s Todd Warner. One of those charged with editing the film was Bellefonte’s star running back and all-time leading rusher C.J. Funk.

Now that the film has been transferred from two 16mm reels of black-and-white film to a hard drive, it’ll be archived in the Centre County Library and Historical Museum.

Luther made his way from table to table at the event, talking with people from both sides of the rivalry. While he was awestruck by the film itself and the ability to relive history, that wasn’t Luther’s main takeaway from the event.

“It is not about one game 50 years ago, but the memories and friendships that will last forever,” Luther said. “This was the real purpose of this event. Although it’s important to preserve a great game played 50 years ago between two special communities, the chance to get together and share this is an experience I will never forget.”

The latest rendition of the Bellefonte-BEA rivalry will take place at 7 p.m. Friday in Wingate.

Jon Sauber earned his B.A. in digital and print journalism from Penn State and his M.A. in sports journalism from IUPUI. His previous stops include jobs at The Indianapolis Star, the NCAA, and Rivals.