No. 52 will not be worn again at Burrell High

| Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011

In 48 years of scholastic basketball, Burrell High School had never retired a uniform number.

But that changed on Friday night when the school retired the No. 52 worn by slain police officer Derek Kotecki, who graduated from Burrell in 1989.

Kotecki died in the line of duty Oct. 12.

"We lost a tremendous asset of what our community is all about," said Burrell senior high Principal John Boylan. "This is a small token on behalf of Burrell High School."

Larry Ondako Jr., captain of the 1989 Bucs and the head coach at Westminster College, remembered his longtime teammate.

"Derek was one of about six or seven of us who played together from seventh grade on," Ondako said. "We were a close-knit group. He did his role, loved to play and was always upbeat."

During pre-game warm-ups, Burrell and Highlands players wore the black Kotecki commemorative T-shirts that have quickly become a staple of the Alle-Kiski Valley.

Burrell teacher Mark Emmerling, an assistant coach of the '89 team, has a picture of the team joking around that he's had on his desk for years.

"That reminds me of the good times, the fun times," Emmerling said. "Derek had a smile that made you happy to be around him."

Proceeds from a 50-50 drawing, $274, went to the Derek Kotecki Memorial Fund.

An unidentified Highlands fan who won the $137 share of the drawing waved off the boosters club members after she showed the winning ticket, insisting that her winnings be donated.

Wildcats' game will benefit Kotecki Memorial Fund

The Western Pa. Wildcats indoor football team's inaugural game will be for a good cause: the Officer Derek Kotecki Memorial Fund.

The team will face a squad from Toronto at 9:15 p.m. today at Pittsburgh Indoor Sports Arena in Indiana Township. Tickets cost $5.

Proceeds benefit Kotecki's family; the Lower Burrell police officer was killed in the line of duty Oct. 12. Toronto will field an all-star squad from teams in the Toronto Indoor Football Association.

"There was no delay in our team supporting this request 110 percent," said Chris Marshall, spokesman for the Toronto team. "Even though Toronto is geographically detached from Lower Burrell, the sacrifice made by Officer Kotecki is one appreciated throughout our community."

The arena is where the Wildcats will compete in the Western Pa. Indoor Football League, which debuts in January. Games are played with modified Arena Football League rules -- there are no walls on the sidelines -- and consist of 15-minute quarters.

"I could not think of a more worthy benefactor of this newly created international event than the fund that assists the Kotecki family," WPIFL founder Jason Heffran said. "I am very honored to have received their blessing for this event."

For more information, visit or call 412-927-0227.

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