The Rivals Poster
"The Rivals" trailer - quicktime required

By Bobby Poirier
Maine International Film Festival
June 9th, 2009

a film by Kirk Wolfinger
Will open this year's Maine International Film Festival
At the Waterville Opera House on Friday, July 10th, 7:00 PM

High School football in small towns all across America can bring a community together, and in some cases, pit one community against another. The Rivals is the story of two towns in Maine, a struggling mill town in the North and an affluent suburb along the southern coast... a story about the pride of place, the passion of tradition and the careful balance... between success and respect.

KIRK WOLFINGER has been a filmmaker for 25 years. He has won two Emmys and a Peabody Award in addition to the American Film Festival Blue Ribbon and the Independent Documentary Association award. He has filmed around the world creating, directing and producing expedition specials for PBS, TBS, THC and National Geographic. Recently he executive produced Discovery Channel's "Angels vs. Demons: Fact or Fiction?" Currently he is executive producing "Dirty Bomb" and "Living on the Moon" for National Geographic and "Underwater Universe" for History, where he also executive produced the popular series, "Deep Sea Detectives." His films "Titanic’s Final Moments: Missing Pieces" and "Titanic's Doomed Sister" are the basis for a soon-to-be-released book. This Kirk's current feature documentary film "The Rivals" will have its television world premiere on the Smithsonian Channel.

Kirk is proud of this film and the talented production team who helped him make it. As he puts it, "It's not just a film about Maine, it’s a film entirely by people who currently live in the State. Every cameraman, soundman, and PA who worked the shoots is from Maine. The editing team is comprised of Mainers. All the musicians, with the exception of two songs are from Maine. Even the sound design and mixing was done by 'The Studio' in Portland. As proud as I am of the film... the fact that we did it entirely in Maine is really something I'm thrilled about."

The story of "The Rivals" centers on the Mountain Valley Falcons, the long time football powerhouse led by coaching legend Jim Aylward, and the fiery Aaron Filieo of Cape Elizabeth who in five short years fueled his team's meteoric rise to the state championships.

In the last 20 years Jim Aylward has led his team to 6 conference championships and 2 state championships. He is passionate, driven to win and intent on his 'kids' leaving the field prepared for a life that in most cases, will be one of mostly hard knocks in a Mill town with a glorious past and an uncertain economic future.

For Aaron Filieo and his "Cape kids" the future is bright and the new astro-turf is always green. But for them, football is one of many distractions in a well-funded school known more for its academic excellence. And the truth is Filieo lacks Aylward's years and football wisdom. But like his players he is focused and smart. The question is will he inspire enough passion for the sport to strip this mill town of the only pride it has left?

In a story that explores much more than just a game we find it does take a village to raise a child and the lessons these two rival towns impart about winning and losing will shape a lifetime.

An all American story where football is everything and losing is not an option...

For the town and for the team, Americana in Maine

Andrew Hart
Maine High School Football
August 27th, 2009

Cape Elizabeth – Two cities that have nothing in common, two schools that are uniquely different, and two teams that are at different ends of the spectrum when it comes to their program. Tonight, The Rivals came to Cape Elizabeth High School to tell a story of the game of football and how it impacted two schools in Maine.

As director Kirk Wolfinger emphasized, “There’s passion in this one.”

The Rivals is set back in 2007 and describes in vivid detail the journey of Mountain Valley (Rumford) and Cape Elizabeth, two teams that are situated in the Western Conference of Class B in Maine’s high school football structure. The cameras follow the efforts of Mountain Valley coach Jim Aylward and Cape Elizabeth coach Aaron Fileo as they prepare their teams for the upcoming season. But there’s also another story that’s told as the audience is shown life in small town Rumford and affluent suburb Cape Elizabeth.

As coach Aylward described his hometown, “there’s a paper mill, there’s a hospital, and there’s just nothing here.”

This is emphasized by images of Hosmer Field, Mountain Valley’s home field; where the iconic smoke stacks of the mill dominate the distance. As the largest employer in the community the mill is a constant reminder of the identity of the city. But you also learn that sports, especially football, are a source of civic pride in the blue-collar community. Success on the field is emphasized by the stern-but-fair coach Aylward, who ensures that his players are prepared and focused on the task at hand.

Cape Elizabeth is quite different. Success in academia is equaled only by success on the field of competition, as evident by the numerous state titles and championship won and earned over the years. In a light-hearted momentum coach Aaron Fileo even mentioned that Cape won a state chess championship.

“We won in chess. I didn’t know it was played, but we won it,” Aaron would proclaim.

The community takes great pride and effort in preparing their sons and daughters for success in life. And while football is still new to the school, the fiery Aaron Fileo is determined to prove that Cape Elizabeth is capable of beating anyone.

It was these differences that caught the attention of Kirk Wolfinger. While working on a project for a fall season Cape Elizabeth High School banquet, he was struck by the passion shown by the Rumford community as he entered Hosmer Field during a 2006 football conference final between the two schools. It was from this display of passion, this unique social and economic contrast, which he decided to document.

He first approached the coaches of the two teams with the idea, and both Jim and Aaron liked the idea.

“We said that it’s good for football, and it’s good for Maine, and it’s good for both communities.” Aaron would go on to explain, “the essence of the movie is about two communities, their differences, but also their common ground and it actually has lived up to its name.”

That was something Kirk agreed with completely.

“All you have to do is watch that film and there’s a rivalry there. And it’s one that exists on an economic level, it exists on a social level, and it exists on the field.”

Initially there was a great degree of skepticism from both communities when it was found that Lone Wolf Documentary Group wanted to do film a documentary about the two teams.

“Great skepticism in both towns,” Kirk chuckled as he recalled the initial conversations. “They would speculate that, oh, he’s going to make all of us look like a bunch of hillbillies up here (Rumford).”

And on the other side of the rivalry there was equal skepticism despite the fact that Kirk is a Cape Elizabeth resident. Most concerns from Cape revolved around the apprehension that the film would portray the Cape to be “a bunch of rich people who have everything and our kids are all spoiled and that’s how you’re going to portray us.”

But you don’t see this apprehension and concern in the movie. Both coaches invite the cameras into their homes and are quite candid about their views and hopes not just in football but life as well. Jim laments the future of Rumford while we get to follow Aaron on his morning job as a paper-deliveryman. And neither one was shy with their choice of words when it came to verbally disciplining players over a missed block or an error in judgment. And when it came to the players, Kirk explained, they were just as open.

“The kids in Cape were very comfortable with the camera being around them and the microphone. They were themselves. Up in Rumford, same thing, kids are very easy-going, they are who they are. They never put on any heirs.”

But while the teams opened themselves up to the movie and made public some personal moments, it wasn’t without reservations. John Mooney and Barry Justard, two guys who made the drive from Rumford to Cape Elizabeth to see the movie along with a smaller entourage of friends and family, had very different opinions on the movie.

“I thought it was ridiculous, to be honest about it,“ John bluntly stated. “In a sense I understand the exploring the history of the two towns and where they stand but they had cameras on these two guys, Fileo and Aylward, and I thought it kind of interfered.” Barry’s view was very similar; “We’re following two teams around a high school, it’s a little too much I thought.”

Despite these reservations and opinions, you won’t sway Kirk from his position.

“These teams have met three years in a row in the Western Maine Conference (championship), nobody else. It has come down to Mountain Valley and Cape three years in a row. And I think that speaks a sense of two teams that are well coached, that are both intense, kid that are committed. The rivalry has been enhanced by the fact that they are so different from a social and economic sense.”

And what does the current Cape Elizabeth football team think of all this you might ask?

“There’s definitely a big rivalry because we lost to them 3 years in a row in the Western Finals,” Cape Elizabeth senior and team captain Tom Foden, the starting running back and strong safety, said about these two teams. “So just that is enough incentive to make us want to play hard and beat them.”

And throughout The Rivals you get a sense of the passion for football that exists between the two towns. Despite their differences there are similarities that create a bond between Mountain Valley and Cape Elizabeth. Both teams are proud of who they are and where they come from. And each side has a story to tell that is just as compelling and moving as the other. Whether you come from Rumford or live on the Cape, you can take pride in the fact that in this movie everyone was a winner.

"The Rivals" to debut on Smithsonian Channel

Maine High School Football is proud to pass on the message that "The Rivals", produced by Maine native Kirk Wolfinger and his local company Lone Wolf Documentary Group, will be available for viewing on Saturday, September 11th, at 9 pm on the Smithsonian Channel. This is channel 532 for those with Time Warner Cable in Southern Maine, channel 770 for those with Time Warner Cable in the Fairfield/Waterville area, and and channel 267 for those with DirecTV.

We were able to interview Kirk Wolfinger when the documentary was debuted at the Cape Elizabeth High School on August 27th, 2009. We strongly urge anyone that is a fan of high school football in Maine to watch this.

The Smithsonian website has produced a short two and a half minute video with a guest feature by Warren Sapp about the nature of high school football. This video is matched by clips from the documentary. You can see this clip right here.

Big lessons on the big screen

Steve Solloway
Portland Press Herald
August 16th, 2009

Light laughter rippled through the audience when one of their own appeared on the big screen, looking into the camera. The man was just another unidentified Mountain Valley High fan, arriving at the Cape Elizabeth football field for the night's big game.

"We came with our shotguns and our whiskey bottles."

It was just one line in "The Rivals," an unflinching, 90-minute look at the relationship between two very different Maine communities and their high school football teams, but one line that helped carry the film's themes. "The Rivals" is about stereotypes, conflicts and ultimately, respect. You must tackle the first two before reaching the third.

Click here for the article

'The Rivals' comes to Rumford

Randy Whitehouse, Staff Writer
Lewiston Sun Journal
August 15th, 2009

In just a few weeks, Mountain Valley students and fans will converge on Hosmer Field and the lights will come up for the start of one of the River Valley's great Friday night traditions — high school football.

On this Friday night, many of those same students and fans filed into a stuffy Muskie Auditorium at Mountain Valley High School as the lights went down for a film that celebrates that tradition, "The Rivals."

The benefit screening drew about 750 viewers, including the film's producer/director, Kirk Wolfinger, and many of the people featured in the 87-minute documentary. About 250 people were lined up outside a half hour before the doors opened to get a good seat.

Click here for the article

'The Rivals' more than a football movie

By Randy Whitehouse, Staff Writer
Lewiston Sun Journal
August 9th, 2009

Post Game
Mountain Valley head football coach Jim Aylward, left, shakes hands with Cape Elizabeth quarterback
Jim Bump following Mountain Valley's 10-0 victory on Saturday.
Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

The post-game scene is the climax of Wolfinger's film, "The Rivals", a documentary chronicling the budding football rivalry between the struggling mill town and the affluent suburb, which will be screened at Mountain Valley High School on Friday. The victory gave the unbeaten Capers the Campbell Conference regular-season title and provoked a mad rush onto its new artificial turf field by a couple of hundred fans. Players were caught up in the celebration while a stunned Mountain Valley squad waited at the 50-yard-line for the traditional post-game handshake.

Click here for the article

The screened pass ... a showdown made for a movie

Glenn Jordan
Portland Press Herald
Part Nine of the series "Beyond the Scoreboard"
November 2nd, 2007

Devon Freitas arrived at Hannaford Field five hours before kickoff and soon was joined by Tucker Emerson. They are recent graduates of Cape Elizabeth High, but each made a special trip from college -- Freitas from Bentley and Emerson from Ohio State -- to watch a high school football game.

"One of the criticisms of our program," Freitas said while leaning against a metal fence around the artificial turf field built since he and Emerson were captains last fall, "is we're young. We're not established. We hear we're arrogant, that we haven't accomplished anything.

"It's always been a chip on our shoulder."

Of course, always is a relative term when the subject is Cape Elizabeth football. Not until 2003 did it receive sanctioning from the Maine Principals' Association. After two seasons in Class C, the Capers moved to Class B, where the regional seat of power is Rumford, home to Mountain Valley.

Sprung from the consolidation of Rumford and Mexico school districts in 1989, Mountain Valley never has suffered a losing season. The Falcons have won five regional and two state titles, and entering the regular-season finale against Cape Elizabeth had a 47-5 record since the Capers came on the scene.

Click here for the article