By Julie Huss
---- — It’s more than an annual rite of high school rivalry.
It’s a passion and way of life for students in Derry and Londonderry this time of year.
When Mack Plaque season rolls around every September, students at Pinkerton Academy and Londonderry High School build a strong competitive spirit, all in the realm of good sportsmanship and teamwork.
Students also hope this will be their year to win.
The Mack Plaque is a longstanding fall athletic tradition between the two schools. Pinkerton and Londonderry teams play a full schedule of sporting events, including football, soccer, field hockey and golf this Friday and Saturday. The school with the most wins in all sports combined earns the trophy.
The tradition was born when Londonderry students left Pinkerton in the late 1970s to attend the newly built Londonderry High School. It’s named for the Mack Family — Pinkerton Academy alumni from Londonderry with three generations graduating from the Derry high school.
Wallace Mack was a member of the Class of 1919; Andrew Mack Sr. graduated in 1953; and his son, Andy Jr., was a member of the Class of 1977.
The Mack Plaque was first played in 1983. It’s important to local residents, listed at Number 559 on “603 Reasons.”
The annual sports fest reinforces historical connections between the two schools with some good sportsmanship thrown in.
“I think the students really enjoy it and like it,” Pinkerton athletic director Tim Powers said. “It is one of the biggest weekends in the fall. All the students get excited for it, not just the athletes.”
The sports events also draw some of the biggest crowds of the year.
Students get into the spirit by doing all sorts of activities prior to the sporting events. Both schools celebrate Spirit Week with special themes and costume events every day.
Londonderry students sold Mack Plaque T-shirts to raise money for good causes while supporting their Lancer teams.
The two schools also team up to support the community.
The field hockey teams from both high schools are hosting a Toys for Tots drive on Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to noon at the Pinkerton field hockey field. All new toys and monetary donations are welcome.
Pinkerton adds homecoming activities to Mack Plaque week and will induct its new Hall of Fame list on Friday night.
Pinkerton has taken the trophy for about a dozen years in a row. Three plaques hang on a lobby wall at the fieldhouse, with the winning school and date engraved. Each trophy holds 10 years, so a new plaque was ordered this year as space was getting tight.
Although traditionally Pinkerton seems to have the most Mack Plaque wins, Londonderry High athletic director Howard Sobolov said this could be the Lancers’ year.
“It’s been a while,” he said. “But I’m always upbeat and positive and hopeful.”
The last time Londonderry took the plaque home was in 2000. The following year the schools tied.
Both Powers and Sobolov joined high school administrators and team captains for a pre-Mack Plaque dinner at Pinkerton Monday night. Athletes were told to be good sports and have fun.
Schools take on the annual rivalry with a strong passion to win, but teamwork and good sportsmanship always top the list.
“It is a great rivalry, games are always close and competitive,” Powers said. “It’s great to see the school’s student body get involved and the communities to come out and support them.”
Pinkerton senior Tim Wood plays soccer and said every Mack Plaque week brings out a lot of school spirit.
“It’s a great opportunity to show off our talents and abilities at both schools,” he said. “It’s one of the biggest and the healthiest of rivalries.”
Pinkerton volleyball player Taylor Ferdinando said athletes appreciate the long rivalry with Londonderry.
“The first thing that comes to my mind is hard work,” she said. “It’s one of our goals to beat Londonderry.”
Londonderry High student Christopher Fondo said having the Mack Plaque every year is a way to bring two schools together.
“It’s a great competition,” he said.
Sobolov said it’s good to see both schools share so much spirit.
“The kids want to do well,” he said.
Although Londonderry often tops Pinkerton in other seasonal tournaments and has the hardware to prove it, the Mack Plaque continues to be absent from the halls of the high school.
There’s a special spot waiting for the plaque to return to Londonderry.
“There’s plenty of room,” Sobolov said. “The Mack Plaque seems to be the one that eludes us. But it’s a very positive experience for both schools.”