By BLAKE TOPPMEYER
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
Cory Duesterhaus could hear the crowd from his spot inside the Quincy Notre Dame locker room.
Once the Raiders exited the locker room, Duesterhaus saw just how big that crowd was.
"They were lined up 10-deep around the field," Duesterhaus said Wednesday. "(QND) coach (Bill) Connell had to clear a path so we could get to the field."
The date was Oct. 28, 1994, and QND was hosting rival Pittsfield for a Class 2A first-round playoff game. Duesterhaus was a sophomore on QND's squad that season. He's now an assistant coach.
That 1994 playoff game, which QND won 17-9, marked the first of two straight years the teams met in the playoffs, and it served as one of the most anticipated games of a rivalry series that was once considered arguably the best rivalry in West-Central Illinois.
The rivalry went dormant after 1998 when Pittsfield joined the West Central Conference. Both teams were independent before that.
The rivalry will renew at 7 p.m. Friday, when QND (5-1) will host Pittsfield (3-3) in a WCC game at QND.
Not only is it the first time the rivals will meet in this millennium, it's also the last time they'll square off for the foreseeable future. Pittsfield will leave the WCC after this season for the Sangamo Conference and is slated to play a schedule consisting only of Sangamo foes.
This is the 51st installment of the game, with QND holding a 29-20-1 advantage. The Raiders have won seven straight in the series.
"A lot of us have dads or uncles who played in the game, so that really plays a part in knowing the past and knowing what went on back then," QND senior tight end/linebacker Logan Schutte said.
Schutte's dad, Brad, and a couple uncles participated in the rivalry.
"We haven't played them in so long, so you don't necessarily see it as much (of a rivalry), but back when they played, it was the real deal," Schutte said. "It was one game both teams pretty much waited for."
Connell said he's had a few history lessons this week to educate his players about the rivalry.
"We've tried to reflect back to some of those days and have them go back and reflect with their grandparents and dads and uncles and friends of the family and different people who they know who have played in this game," Connell said.
Pittsfield coach Don Bigley faced the same task this week of educating his players about what this rivalry once stood for. Bigley said his players who also play basketball have a better appreciation for the rivalry, which is still one of the most anticipated hoops games in West-Central Illinois every winter.
Eight members of the Saukees' 10-member coaching staff are Pittsfield graduates who participated in the rivalry. That includes Bigley, a 1975 Pittsfield alumnus.
"In basketball, and it used to be when we played in football too, you could throw the records out the door," Bigley said. "It didn't really matter what the records were. You thought it was going to be an intense, tough game."
As much as the rivalry is a story line this week, Bigley said his team primarily is focused on improving its playoff chances. The Saukees must win two of its last three to become playoff eligible and has to win out to be ensured of a playoff berth.
"We just have to keep playing better every week," Bigley said.
Schutte said the chance to bookend the rivalry with a victory amplifies this contest.
"It's kind of a good opportunity to give them one more statement who the better team is before they go on and we split ways for a while," Schutte said.