South Western, Hanover and Delone Catholic competed for the Hanover City Cup from 1980-1995.
One day in 1979, Tom Busbey's shirt prompted the idea for what was once Hanover's most prized football trophy: the Hanover City Cup.
For 16 years, the City Cup trophy went to the winner of the most head-to-head games between South Western, Hanover and Delone Catholic high schools. The three schools, separated by less than eight miles, always played intense rivalry games. Winning that trophy meant as much as anything.
But the competition between the three Hanover-area schools ended in 1995, and the original City Cup trophy hasn't left South Western High School since that time.
Its journey to that point started with Busbey's shirt and a softball game at Hanover Foods.
The Cup's creation
Busbey, then a sophomore football player at Delone Catholic, played softball outside Hanover Foods, with his father, Terry, and some of Terry's friends. The Squires had beaten the Mustangs and Nighthawks the previous season, and Tom wore a shirt boasting his squad as the best team in town.
That shirt gave Clyde Kaltreider, one of the fellow players in the softball game, an idea.
Former Evening Sun sports editor Jack LeFevre had coined Delone Catholic as winners of "the mythical city championship" in one of his articles that fall.
Maybe there was a way the city championship could be transformed from mythical to real.
"You know what would be nice?" Kaltreider told his friends that Saturday afternoon. "If we had something like the service academies have."
He was referring to the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy, a trophy awarded to the team that wins the most head-to-head games between Army, Navy and Air Force each year in college football. Navy has won three of the last four.
He brought the idea up at the next meeting of the local Baltimore Colts fan club, Colts Corral 32.
The organization purchased a trophy — a large silver cup mounted on a wooden base — before the 1980 season, and the three schools approved the idea.
That trophy came to be known as the City Cup.
“The build-up for the City Cup games, you could feel the tension in the locker rooms," former Delone Catholic coach Denny Frew said. "There was a lot of pride in the bragging rights of being the best team in Hanover.”
The trophy's meaning
The landscape of high school football in Hanover looked very different in 1980 than it does now.
At that time, the three Hanover-area schools were similar in size. Now, South Western services more students than the other two combined.
The district playoffs also didn't start until 1982, so league championships and local rivalry victories were the biggest prizes a team could win.
At the time, few rivalries matched the intensity of Hanover vs. Delone Catholic. Those games used to draw more than 8,000 fans, said South Western Athletic Director Don Seidenstricker, the Mustangs long-time coach who played for the Nighthawks in the '70s. With South Western in the mix, it got even better.
"Those City Cup games were well-attended, and the media made a big deal out of it," Seidenstricker said. "The local community really got behind it. You routinely had another 500 to 1,000 people at those games compared to usual home games. It always played into the pregame talk when you were playing a City Cup game.”
Delone Catholic and South Western each won three of the first six City Cups. Hanover's only win came in 1986, when the Nighthawks and Squires split the title after playing to a 13-13 tie in their meeting.
The Colts Corral lived on despite the departure of the Baltimore Colts for Indianapolis in 1984 and continued to sponsor the City Cup.
"It was a pretty big deal to the kids," recalled Steve Petry, a former Colts Corral member who was once the chairman of the City Cup committee. "It was local bragging rights. If they won it, they put it on their jackets and everything.”
South Western won its 10th City Cup in 1995, and the original trophy was placed in the school's trophy case for good.
The new City Cups
By 1996, tectonic shifts changed the landscape of football at every level.
Art Modell moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, giving the city a team for the first time since the Colts left. The Colts Corral changed its name to the Ravens Roost.
The Ravens Roost accommodated changes in the high school football landscape by replacing the original City Cup with two Hanover Area Division Cup trophies.
Delone Catholic, New Oxford and Littlestown left the Blue Mountain League for the York County Interscholastic Athletic Association in 1992, prompting the league to be renamed the York Area Interscholastic Athletic Association. New Oxford was added to the City Cup competition in 1994, since most Colonials students live in the Hanover area in Conewago Township and McSherrystown, Petry said.
The continued growth of the South Western School District during the '80s and '90s had made the Mustangs the dominant team in the City Cup, winning every title from 1989 to 1995. South Western and Delone Catholic split the title in 1994 after they didn't play in a Week 11 game scheduled contingent on neither team making the playoffs. Both teams made the playoffs.
"It was becoming more and more difficult to play each other because of scheduling," Frew said. "They tried to preserve a City Cup by splitting it two ways, but splitting it made it lose some of its luster."
The Ravens Roost retired the original trophy and created two new trophies in 1996. The Hanover Area Division I Cup was set up between three schools in the YAIAA Division I: South Western, New Oxford and Spring Grove. The Hanover Area Division II Cup was set up between three schools in YAIAA Division II: Hanover, Delone Catholic and Littlestown.
“When they split it and went big school-small school, there wasn’t that natural rivalry you saw between the three original teams," Frew said. "You didn’t have the rivalries between the schools the way you did before.”
The end of the Cup
The last Hanover Area Division Cups were awarded in 2011.
The YAIAA's move to three divisions in the 2000s created situations that sometimes made it difficult for all three teams in each competition to play each other. New Oxford moved from Division I to Division II in 2012 and didn't play Spring Grove until moving back to Division I in 2014.
The Hanover Area Division I Cup trophy resides alongside the original City Cup trophy at South Western. The Mustangs won or shared the title 12 out of 16 years, including the last one.
There doesn't seem to be any indication that the Division Cups could be resumed, even though each set of three teams are now back in the same divisions. Spring Grove beat both South Western and New Oxford in Division I last fall, while Hanover beat both Littlestown and Delone Catholic in Division III.
“The big school-small schools competition was OK, but it was really neat when it was the original City Cup," Seidenstricker said. "Initially, it was a pretty big deal. I miss South Western, Hanover and Delone playing each other."
Hanover City Cup winners
1980: Delone Catholic
1981: Delone Catholic
1982: South Western
1983: Delone Catholic
1984: South Western
1985: South Western
1986: Hanover & Delone Catholic
1987: Delone Catholic
1988: Delone Catholic
1989: South Western
1990: South Western
1991: South Western
1992: South Western
1993: South Western
1994: South Western & Delone Catholic
1995: South Western
Hanover Area Division I Cup winners
1996: New Oxford
1997: South Western
1998: South Western
1999: South Western
2000: South Western
2001: Spring Grove
2002: New Oxford
2003: South Western
2004: South Western
2005: South Western
2006: South Western
2007: Three-team tie
2008: South Western
2009: South Western
2010: Spring Grove
2011: South Western
Hanover Area Division II/III Cup winners
1999: Delone Catholic
2000: Delone Catholic
2001: Delone Catholic
2002: Delone Catholic
2003: Delone Catholic
2007: Delone Catholic
2008: Delone Catholic
2009: Delone Catholic
2011: Delone Catholic