Alumni teams return to the gridiron
As the time gets closer for an alumni football double-header, what was once curiosity about the event has turned to excitement and anticipation.
At least for the players.
Plans are to have Charleroi battle long-time rival Monessen in the 6 p.m. opener on July 30 with Belle Vernon Area going against Ringgold in the nightcap.
Organizers are looking for a stadium after Ringgold School District turned down a request to use its stadium. Other local sites are being considered.
The doubleheader is sponsored by Alumni Football USA, a national organization that promotes high school alumni games.
"We held our meeting of the teams (July 16) and I was very impressed with the turnout," said Tim Bishop, Texas regional director for Alumni Football USA. "I think we are going to have a great showing for July 30."
Bishop said he attended practices for three of the teams - Ringgold, BVA and Charleroi - and came away impressed with what he saw as far as organization.
"They haven't had much time, but they seemed to have a plan," Bishop said. "I thought Ringgold and Belle Vernon were particularly organized well."
Bishop did not see Monessen practice that weekend, but noted, "They had practiced a few times before that and they were taking that weekend off."
Representatives for the four alumni teams are expecting to have anywhere from 25 to 35 players suited up for the doubleheader.
"We could probably bring 40, maybe 45 players," said Monessen player/coach Bruce "Boo" Davis. "But we are only allowed to have 35 players.
"We've got as many as 30 show up for our practices. I'm real excited. Our guys are real excited."
Jordan Yonkers, who has been the player/coach for BVA's team, said his squad is dotted with a few players who starred for the Leps' 1995 WPIAL Class AAA championship team.
"Jason Nogy, Ben Keefer, Nick Norelli and Jason Shawley are all playing," Yonkers said of the players who have championship pedigrees.
"Everybody is pretty pumped up," he added. "Our offense will be so-so, but our defense will really be something to watch."
Yonkers will particularly be excited for the game as one of his opponents that night will be his cousin, Darryl Yonkers.
"We talked a little bit," he said of his cousin. "I'm sure their guys are ready, too."
Jeff Dumm, a 2000 Charleroi graduate and the alumni team's quarterback, says the Cougar alumni squad will have at least 25 players and "We're trying to get more guys to play.
"We've had some practices and more people are getting interested."
The chance to strap on the pads has attracted some players from 'way back' as Dennis Shannon, age 60, is playing for Charleroi.
For Monessen, Dan Escareno, 54, will be playing despite having an artificial knee and George Mowl, 67, is also suiting up.
"I came to a practice to see if I could help coach," said Mowl, a member of the MHS Class of 1960. "But once I got there I said, 'Heck, I can still do this.' I only want to play a couple series, but I'm a lineman and blocking hasn't changed much."
Tickets for the game are $8 for adults and $6 for students and senior citizens. All tickets will be sold at the gate the night of the game.
The doubleheader will be part of a bust weekend for Bishop and Alumni Football USA.
After Friday's twin bill, there will be an alumni doubleheader on Saturday at Shenango Valley and on Sunday, Bishop's alumni - Sto-Rox - will go up against Langley in an alumni game at Sto-Rox.