It may not show in some sports as much as others, but in the eyes of Fairview senior Matt Erickson there is much respect between the baseball players at Boulder and Fairview, particularly the players whose 2017 season will be their last at the prep level.
And trust us when we say there's a lot of them that fall into that category.
Put it this way — if you were to combine the amount of seniors in the BHS and FHS baseball programs, you'd have enough to get a third nine-man lineup and have leftovers for a bullpen. It's unique in recent memory, and it adds plenty of intrigue to a rivalry that was turned a bit upside-down last season.
But this is about more for the 30 or so kids of the Class of 2017. Their scheduled April 27th game at Scott Carpenter Park represents the end of a string of battles that date back to Little League.
"We've been playing with Boulder High (kids) since it was North Boulder and South Boulder Little League, when were like 9 years old. That right there really started the rivalry for everyone and where that competitive nature first emerged," Erickson said after a practice earlier this week. "It's so fun playing them. We have respect for them and I'm sure they have respect for us, it's great for the community and I think it's a positive environment for baseball."
"What's cool about it is seeing so many guys make it through four years of a program and I think a lot of times that gets overlooked," said Boulder's Henry Ryan. "To have so many seniors in both programs says a lot about the little leagues here. The developmental baseball that we've had has turned into this, and we're getting ready for it."
The rivalry for this class has seen both sides have success overall. Of course, the NBLL All-Stars — which have seen plenty of Panthers in the past — have consistently been vying for state championships and World Series regional appearances.
Looking at the high school feud, the Fairview guys have had the upper hand since they started playing just once per season starting in 2009 (winning five of eight times). Boulder's third win in that stretch came just last year, breaking a four-game series losing streak with a 6-5, 14-inning barn burner.
That loss still lingers for Fairview's Tyler Carpenter, one of the few Knights who played in the NBLL with a lot of the Panthers.
"We have a chip on our shoulder because of the 14-inning game last year, losing really close, so we're going to be out to get them this year," the Illinois State bound first baseman said.
It is understood that members of both teams are looking forward to that game, but they also know the contest would mean even more if they are sitting at or near the top of the Front Range League standings when the day arrives.
Such was not the case last year for either team. Fairview was surprisingly average (8-11 overall) as a team after winning no fewer than 12 games the previous three years, and Boulder seemed to have plateaued in Colt Sedbrook's third year (also finished 8-11).
However, Boulder has a new head man — longtime area coach Carmen Rivas — and the Panthers have a good feeling about the direction he is taking them.
"It's kind of a level playing field," Boulder's Derek Cunningham said, describing this year's game as a potential "defining moment for the season.
"Carmen has a lot of years of baseball experience, and there's a knowledge there that he and the staff have that we really like."
Cunningham and Ryan should be consistent starters for Boulder, and the Panthers will also look to Mason Hitz and Aiden Chandler, among others, to contribute offensively coming off strong junior seasons.
For Fairview, Stone Streeter and Danny Sheridan enter the season as the team's statistical leaders in hitting from last year. Carpenter was right there, as well, and the Yale-bound Erickson is a certified ace on the hill.
"We've had a year to grow a bunch of seniors into who were are right now, and I think we've grown together and are ready to take on the season together," Carpenter said. "We had a really good summer and in the fall the whole team pretty much stayed together to work."