37th Raabe Charities Classic set for Saturday evening

Port Allegany players James Nellis (standing at left) and Lucas Kline (kneeling) warm up before last Wednesday's Raabe Classic practice. (Photo by Pam Fischer / Reporter Argus)

UPDATE: James Nellis, one of the Port players scheduled to participate in the game, was seriously injured in an automobile accident Thursday evening. Please keep him and his family in your thoughts.

Thanks.

Lori Chase
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
August 5, 2010

Last Wednesday evening, Tony Tridico stood in the doorway of the Port Allegany High School gym, looking out through the rain toward the football field his team was supposed to be working on as a thunderstorm rumbled through the area.

But while Mother Nature called a quick halt to that night’s session, the head coach of the Pennsylvania squad for the 37th Annual Don Raabe Big 30 Charities Classic was pleased with what he’d seen in the first full week of practice for this Saturday night’s game, slated for a 7 p.m. kickoff (WESB-AM 1490, WBRR-FM 100.1) at Parkway Field in Bradford.

“The kids have a good attitude. They’re fun to be around. So far, things look good,” the fifth-year Youngsville mentor said.

Because his Warren County school is on the western fringe of the Big 30 area and plays a District 10 schedule, Tridico and the Eagles coaching staff didn’t get much of a chance to watch his current players last fall – including safety Ryan Bodamer, wide receiver Lucas Kline, and offensive tackle James Nellis, the three Port Allegany Gators in the game – but that hasn’t turned out to be as much of a concern as he’d initially feared.

“Surprisingly not,” he said. “I thought it was going to be (a problem), because we didn’t really have many visuals. We knew the Sheffield kids because they’re in our area, but once you get outside in District 9, you can only go by what you’ve seen in the papers, what you’ve heard during the season – because obviously, you do hear those things about a number of these kids.

“So we didn’t know as much as we would have liked to … but to be honest, after those first two days with the conditioning and the special-teams effort, it turned out to not be too big of a problem.”

Pennsy will use an I-formation on offense, with some familiar faces from Port High’s Allegany Mountain League schedule in the lineup. Sheffield’s Craig Fitch rotates in at quarterback with teammate Jimmy Hahn at tight end, 1,000-yard rushers Andy Lippert (Cameron County) and Drew Coscia (Otto-Eldred) will split time at running back, and Kane’s Arie Paup and O-E’s Justin Bird are at receiver. (Kline was originally slotted at wideout as well, but a late roster shuffle may send him to defense.)

With players coming from a variety of systems, some using different play-calling terminology, “It’s not easy getting an offense together in two weeks with people who haven’t played together. That’s one of the challenges, trying to get it together to get some offensive firepower going,” Tridico said.

On the other side of the ball, the defense will play the game’s mandated 5-2 set.

“We have experience in it, but we’re a 4-3 team,” he said of his staff. “It’s not the defense of choice, but in an all-star game that’s designed for scoring, you do the best you can.”

Asked specifically about the Port Allegany players, Tridico said, “They’re doing very well. They’re nice kids and they work hard. Really, that’s what we’ve seen from pretty much everybody, so it’s been a pleasure and a pleasant experience.”

The Raabe Classic, formerly known as the Big 30 All-Star Game before being renamed in memory of its creator, features teams of graduated seniors from the 29 area football-playing schools and has raised over $1.3 million for local charities and causes throughout the Twin Tiers. The New York squad dominated the early years, but Pennsylvania has won five of the last six games – including a 13-6 victory in last year’s meeting – to cut the gap in the series to 18-16-2.

Saturday’s festivities in Bradford kick off with a parade featuring the two teams, cheerleaders, and Homecoming queens, beginning at Davis Street at 2 p.m. and following a Main St. – Mechanic St. – W. Washington St. route to Parkway Field, where pregame ceremonies are scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m.

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