Tension remains high in Redwood-Marin Catholic Rivalry

Jason Fieber

Separated by only about two miles, Marin Catholic and Redwood have deservedly earned the title “rivalry” for their matchups.

There has been high tension between the two schools since they first began competing, and the energetic environment of the rivalry hasn’t changed since then.

Head varsity basketball coach Steve Compagno is well-versed in the traditions of the rivalry.

Compagno played basketball and baseball for Redwood for his first three years of high school before transferring to Marin Catholic his senior year. He played for Redwood during its national baseball championship run in 1977. Despite his season as a Wildcat, Compagno says he remains true to his Redwood roots.

“I’m a Redwood guy. I always have been,” he said.

Shuffling on defense, junior Jordan Jackson guards Marin Catholic's Sepehr Agnese during a heartbreaking loss against Marin Catholic. Redwood and Marin Catholic will meet again Feb. 11 at Marin Catholic.
Shuffling on defense, junior Jordan Jackson guards Marin Catholic’s Sepehr Agnese during a heartbreaking loss against Marin Catholic. Redwood and Marin Catholic will meet again Feb. 11 at Marin Catholic.

Compagno recalled the importance of the rivalry felt in the days leading up to games between the two.

“Prior to my senior year we knew when we were playing Marin Catholic, and when I was a senior at Marin Catholic we knew when we were playing Redwood,” Compagno said.

He added that his most notable memory of the rivalry as a player came when he was playing for Marin Catholic’s baseball team.

“When I transferred to Marin Catholic as a senior [Redwood was] the national champion. We beat them. I actually pitched against them and we won the game,” he said. “It was probably one of the most memorable moments I had as a winner.”

Junior Gabe Stephens has also gotten to experience the rivalry from both points of view. Stephens attended Marin Catholic for his first two years of high school before transferring to Redwood his junior year.

Stephens said he keeps in contact with his former classmates, often to discuss the rivalry game.

“I always talk with my friends about the Redwood [vs. MC] football game, the Redwood [vs. MC] basketball game and the Redwood [vs. MC] baseball game,” he said.

Despite still feeling a connection to Marin Catholic, Stephens said it doesn’t prevent him from joining in the cheering of a raucous Redwood crowd.

“It’s hard at first [to cheer against them],” he said. “You know it’s the school that you have been to for two years, but then you realize that you’re with all of your friends cheering, and it’s pretty friendly.”

Stephens played football at Marin Catholic his first two years, and now plays on the Redwood varsity team.

“At MC we usually put all of our effort into the Redwood game,” he said.

He said that in addition to the proximity of the two schools, the camaraderie between them has a large effect on the intensity of the rivalry.

“We’re playing our friends, so we know that we want to really show up to that game,” Stephens said.

Compagno’s attitude toward the rivalry has changed during his 10-year stint as the head coach for varsity basketball.

“We are dealing with high school boys. They get jacked up for certain teams. My job is just to calm them down and make sure that they realize that every game, they are playing a nameless, faceless opponent,” he said.

Compagno said he tries to prepare the team for games the same way, regardless of the opponent.

“You play them one game at a time,” he said. “You adjust your game plan based on their personnel. Every year is different, every team is different, and as a coach you just want to put your players in a situation where they have an opportunity to be successful.”

One of the most memorable moments of Compagno’s coaching career came in the playoffs last year, when Redwood lost to Marin Catholic.

“I really believe that if we had won that game we [would have] had a chance to win a championship because we were just starting to gel and put it all together,” Compagno said.

Stephens said that the anticipation of a Redwood upset brings excitement to the home stands.

“It’s kind of nice to be an underdog because when you do pull off a win it has a more special meaning,” Stephens said. “Every win just feels that much better.”