Tri-County all-star football game boasts local flavor
Each year, some of the top high school graduates from Fayette, Westmoreland, Washington, Greene and Allegheny counties suit up and represent their schools one last time as part of the annual Tri-County Football Coaches Association BeeGraphix Football Classic.
This year, the game will be played at 7 p.m. Saturday at Southmoreland.
Nine players representing Southmoreland, Frazier, Laurel Highlands and Uniontown will play in the game. Plus, longtime Uniontown coach John Fortugna will be inducted into the TCFCA Hall of Fame.
“It's a great honor and I wasn't expecting it,” Fortugna said. “It's probably one of the highest honors I've received in a long time.”
Fortugna has been a football coach for 31 years, including the last 19 years as head coach of the Red Raiders. In those 19 seasons, 10 of his teams qualified for the WPIAL playoffs. His 2001 squad finished with a 10-0 regular-season record and a Keystone Conference championship. In 2009, Fortugna's team advanced to the second round of the WPIAL playoffs, marking the first time in 40 seasons that a Uniontown football team had advanced past the first round. Fortugna has coached 12 Division I players and numerous Division II and Division III players.
“You are only as good as the players you have, and I have been blessed to have had so many great kids,” Fortugna said.
Fortugna also thanked district officials and administrators for supporting him over the years.
“In 19 years, we've had some ups and downs, but they've always supported me,” Fortugna said.
Two of Fortugna's former players, defensive back/punter Jonathan Hager and wide receiver/defensive end Jucqui Taylor, will play in the game. Taylor will be attending Bethany College and Hager will continue his education at Waynesburg University.
Hager and Taylor will play on the South Squad, as will three Laurel Highlands graduates, defensive end Xavier Daniels, wide receiver/defensive back Joe Pegg and guard George Teslovich.
Teslovich will attend college at Washington (Mo.) and Daniels will further his education at Bethany.
Pegg's future plans are undecided.
Four local players will compete for the North Squad — two Frazier graduates, wide receiver/defensive back Jaime Fell and lineman Justin Kulwicki, and two Southmoreland graduates, running back Tyler Ramsey and offensive lineman Jacob McNeice.
Fell will be attending Juniata in the fall, and Kulwicki will be going to Washington & Jefferson.
“It's exciting for them to be playing in this game,” Frazier coach Mike Steeber said.
McNeice will be attending Pittsburgh Technical Institute, and Ramsey's future plans are undecided.
For the Southmoreland graduates, having the opportunity to play on their home field once again is an added bonus.
“It's definitely an honor to be chosen for an all-star game,” Ramsey said. “And to play the game at home, you couldn't ask for anything more.”
McNeice added: “I can't think of anything better. To play an all-star game and to play it at home makes you want to get that win even more. I couldn't ask for a better setting for my last game.”
All players picked to participate in the game are chosen by coaches within the Tri-County Football Coaches Association.
Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.