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Football rivalry between Archbishop Hoban, St. Vincent-St. Mary canceled

Both sides are blaming each other for the decision. In particular, STVM is accusing the Knights of recent 'unsportsmanlike behavior.'

AKRON, Ohio — One of Northeast Ohio's most storied high school football rivalries is over, and both sides are now blaming each other for it ending.

The Akron "Holy War" between Archbishop Hoban and St. Vincent-St. Mary has been canceled, effective immediately. Hoban's president and principal confirmed the developments to 3News, with both saying it was STVM that decided to terminate the matchup.

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"We know this decision impacts our current and future students and for that, we are saddened," President Chris DiMauro and Principal T.K. Griffith wrote in a joint statement. "We pray for and continue to work towards a better solution that allows students to compete and enjoy this timeless tradition."

The two Catholic institutions have met on the football field 49 times in their history, including continuously since 1996 following a previous 18-year hiatus. Hoban administrators claim there were rumors of St. V officials wanting to stop the series in 2019 "for reasons of competitiveness" (the Knights have beaten the Irish 11 straight times since 2015, with all but one victory by at least 14 points), but both sides agreed to eventually continue the rivalry.

However, new issues apparently arose within the last two years. While St. Vincent-St. Mary has not released an official public statement on the matter, the Akron Beacon Journal obtained a letter from school President Leo Hyland to parents and alumni which accused Hoban of unspecified "unsportsmanlike behavior."

DiMauro and Griffith seemed to shed more light on those allegations Monday, acknowledging St. V had accused members of Hoban of using "improper language" in the moments leading up to the 2021 matchup. Hoban contends an investigation "uncovered no evidence of this claim" but that administrators as well as Knights coach Tim Tyrell apologized anyway. The 2022 showdown went ahead, but the Irish reportedly didn't agree to participate "until the late spring."

Though DiMauro and Griffith say last year's regular season and playoff meetings occurred without problems, St. Vincent-St. Mary does not appear to be satisfied, with Hyland saying in his letter that conversations over the past year did not yield positive results. In ultimately deciding to end the series for now, the president declared Archbishop Hoban "has lost its privilege to play STVM in the 2023 regular season."

Per the Beacon Journal's reporting, STVM has replaced Hoban on its schedule with Huber Heights Wayne. 3News has not independently verified the letter and has reached out to Hyland for comment.

Hoban and St. V are both athletic independents, giving them a bit more flexibility in scheduling. Administrators from both schools both expressed hope the rivalry would be revived in the near future.

"It's safe to say that there is always a need for ownership and accountability on both sides," DiMauro and Griffith said. "Our communities pour their hearts into cheering and emotions run high — from football games to mock trial competitions. But, when the contest is over, Hoban and STVM move forward with class, form lifelong friendships and demonstrate mutual respect for each other."

Archbishop Hoban and St. Vincent-St. Mary have combined to win 11 state football championships, and the Knights lead the all-time series between the two foes, 28-21. It is considered perhaps the greatest rivalry in the city, usually taking place either at the University of Akron's Rubber Bowl or Infocision Stadium and even inspiring a well-received documentary in 2017.

Since the two teams began playing each other again in 1996, the game has been marked by periods of dominance by both schools, with Hoban winning 10 of those first 11 meetings, the Irish taking the next eight, and finally the Knights prevailing in the last 11. The most recent occurrence took place in the third round of last year's OHSAA Division II playoffs, with Hoban pummeling STVM 47-7.

While the 2023 regular season game has been canceled, both schools are still slated to be placed in Region 5, making it entirely possible they could once again battle in the postseason.

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