Yankees vs. Red Sox. Celtics vs. Lakers. Harvard vs. Yale. These are just a few epic sports rivalries that have carried on throughout history. The Powder Keg, a tradition between the Tilton School Rams and the New Hampton School Huskies, may not be as infamous as those listed above, but it’s legendary in its own right.
The rivalry between New Hampton and Tilton is a strong one, and it’s almost as old as the schools themselves. Beginning in 1895 (Tilton School was instituted in 1845, New Hampton in 1821), the tradition is one of the oldest in prep school athletics. The matchup between the William Penn Charter School Quakers (Philadelphia) vs. Germantown Academy Patriots (Fort Washington, Pennsylvania) began in 1887, and is believed to be the actual oldest prep school rivalry in the nation. A Boston Globe article published in 1969 called the Tilton-New Hampton showdown the “Harvard-Yale of New Hampshire preppies.” The most recent version of the contest featured full day of Rams vs. Huskies, with each fall sport battling one another for P.K. glory.
Surviving two wars and a flu epidemic (Boston Globe, 1969) the rivalry has gone through numerous “cooling down” periods. The first came in the 1950s, and the most recent came to an end in 2007 when the Powder Keg was once again brought to campus. The “Powder Keg” is physically a keg of gunpowder, although no powder currently resides in this keg. The name comes from the Huskies, who dedicated the rival game to a former employee in the 1950s. The keg itself is adorned with small plaques notating each years winner, and is present on the day of games every year. After the last contest, it is handed off to that year’s winner for safe keeping.
Throughout the history of Powder Keg, the rivalry, and the format surrounding it, have gone through multiple changes. It’s our hope that the next chapter in Powder Keg lore can include athletes from all seasons, rather than exclusively fall sports. While we take time to work with New Hampton on the future of this cherished tradition, we can’t wait to enjoy this weekend’s games with beautiful weather, excited fans, food trucks, and more.