The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

October 17, 2013

Doc's Rock a reminder of sportsmanship and friendship

By Kevin Prise
The Journal-Register


When two football teams prepare to meet for the 116th time, subplots aren’t necessary to make the game meaningful. The pure history is plenty to make the battle entertaining, in and of itself.


But in this year’s Medina-Albion football matchup (kickoff tonight at Albion HS, 7:30 p.m.), the Mustangs and Purple Eagles aren’t playing for pride alone. They’re playing for a spot in the sectional playoffs.


The rivals separated by just 11 miles on Route 31 are also playing for something else: Doc’s Rock.


Larry Decker (Doc) was a Medina staple for over 30 years, who served as a football, tennis and basketball coach at various points during his time with the Mustangs. Decker held the reins as the Medina varsity football coach during the 1980s, stepping down to become an assistant coach after an undefeated 10-0 season in 1988.


Doc’s son, Brett, was the Mustang quarterback during his time at Medina HS. Doc’s daughter, Melissa, went on to marry Tony Osburn — yes, the same Tony Osburn who now holds the reins at Albion.


Tony played quarterback at Albion, while Medina coach Eric Valley played fullback and tight end for the Mustangs, under Doc. The two played together for a year on SUNY Cortland’s junior varsity team, long before either had any idea that they would be coaching against each other in a football game. Much less in a rivalry football game pitting the alma maters of both men, with a playoff berth on the line. Small world, indeed.


Eventually, Larry left Medina to coach tennis at Albion and help out with the football team — which was now coached by Tony, his son-in-law. As they grew older, Larry and his wife Judy would make a practice of staying in Orleans County through the fall, before driving to Florida for the winter.


Four years ago, a day after the Medina-Albion football game, Larry and Judy departed for Florida. On the way down, Larry passed away. 


In honor of the great coach and his service to both schools, Valley and Osburn decided to create a trophy for the winner of each year’s game. They found a huge lake rock (about a foot in diameter, in Valley’s estimation), and dubbed it Doc’s Rock. Each year, the winning school gets to keep the rock until the next game has been played. The rock spent the last year in a trophy case at Medina HS, Valley said. Valley, an art teacher at Medina, also created a drawing of Doc’s Rock on ceramic tile.


Although the rock is obviously a symbol of Doc and his service to both schools, it also serves as a reminder of the friendship between coaches Valley and Osburn. Despite the trash-talking and whatnot that may exist between Medina and Albion, the two coaches are proud to call each other friends. They drive to sectional meetings together, and neither can recount a serious issue ever arising between their players or coaching staffs.


“Eric and I go way back, as players, and we have a ton of mutual respect for each other as people and as coaches,” Osburn said. “It’s a gentleman’s rivalry, and I’m proud to call him a friend. For two grown men to have that kind of relationship along with the rivalry, it says a lot.”
“Every week besides this week, we’re rooting for each other,” Valley added.


In advance of today’s game, Osburn put together a T-shirt that depicts each team’s helmet along with Doc’s Rock. Between the two programs, Medina and Albion players have worked together to sell the shirts, and have sold over 200 so far, Valley said.


After tonight’s game, Doc’s Rock will be awarded in a ceremony on the field, which will include the Decker family. Brett is now the team statistician for Albion, under the guidance of Tony, his brother-in-law.


When the result is final, one team will be celebrating, knowing it is on its way to the sectional playoffs. The other team will be dejected, knowing that it came oh-so-close to serious postseason play.


But no matter what happens, Valley and Osburn will continue to hold each other in high esteem. They will continue to drive to meetings together, and they will continue to honor the legendary coach who played such an integral part in both their lives.


And next year, their teams will do it all over again.