To kick off Homecoming Week, students from all years came to Freiberger Field to participate in two Case Western Reserve University traditions nearly as old as Clark Hall: the first-year vs. second-year student contest and the third-year vs. fourth-year student contest.
The environment proved relaxing. Music of all kinds played in the background as students socialized with each other. A couple of students played corn hole by the Greek Life Office, others stood in line to wait for free pizza from pizzaBOGO.
The sun beamed down on the field. Students warmed up for their respective events with each other, careful not to run into any of the observers.
While the upperclassmen participated in the well-known and beloved game of flag football, the underclassmen participated in something else altogether.
The game in question? Pushball.
The game was first introduced on CWRU’s campus in 1911. The participants played with a giant wooden ball, covered in padding and about shoulder height, and took on their upper class rivals.
There are four quarters, like basketball. A typical team usually consists of 11 members on the field at once, with substitutes ready to enter the game.
How do you play? Your team pushes a giant ball across the field into the opponent’s goal.
But it’s not that simple.
On the opposite side of the ball, just as many eager athletes await. The constant clash between the sides causes the game to turn into a free-for-all with a giant ball in the middle.
“I thought it would be a nice team bonding experience,” said first-year student and team captain Devina Patel. “I’ve never played this game…. Even if you haven’t played before, it’s really easy.”
In a competitive but good spirited game, the first-years bravely battled the second-years for class supremacy. Several students called for substitutions, out of breath and exhausted from the flow of the game.
The ball rolled back and forth, with 22 players swarming around it. Occasionally players would attempt to lift the ball and throw it into the goal, but not to much avail.
After a long fought game, the first-years came out on top. Instead of taking the opportunity to gloat, they demonstrated sportsmanship and friendly competitive spirit to their upperclassmen peers.
When the game was first introduced to campus in 1911, losers of first-year vs. second-year contest would experience some kind of penalty, whether it would be having to obey the second-year students’ commands, or the second-year students being unable to initiate the first-years. Times have changed for the better, with the prize for victory just being bragging rights.
“I would say great game. We had a really tough time trying to beat them,” said Kiyla Cooper, the Freshmen Class Officer Collective President. “I was actually really tired. Our team was tired, they came ready and prepared.”
“I decided to participate just because I’m a commuter, and getting involved on campus makes me feel like I’m more of a part on campus,” said Shahed Eid, first-year participant. “A lot of my friends are doing it so I figured, why not? … Case is about trying new things, so why not?”
“It looks intimidating and it definitely is intimidating, but as long as you work with your team it’s a good time,” Eid added.
After the pushball game concluded, the third-year and fourth-year students started arriving one by one, donning either burgundy or white. They gathered in their respective teams, tossing the football between each other.
More students started arriving to cheer on their classmates and friends in what was, for some, their last Homecoming Week at CWRU.
The first half saw a crowded Freiberger Field, with some even going to the second floor of Tinkham Veale to witness the action. It also saw the fourth-year students build a massive lead on the third-years by the end of the half.
However, towards the end of the game, the crowd started to thin out. The food was gone, and the outcome seemed to be imminent. The fourth-year students crushed the third-years by 29 points, winning 52-23. After what seemed to be an eternity of touchdowns, the game concluded.
The fourth-years walked off the field celebrating their victory in their last homecoming flag football game.
“Great team effort tonight. Great QB Performance, really great defense,” one fourth-year student said. “The corners locked it down.”
Because of the event’s success, many of the students said they would come back and participate if they had the chance.
“It was so much fun. It’s a great to have like two teams, your friends and then your classmates,” said third-year student Alex Awad. “It’s also fun to be competitive. It was a good time, it was a great time.”