With kickoff just over four hours away, my advance from Thursday for tonight’s Big 30 All-Star Charities Classic:
Aug. 3, 2017
The sounds of football pads colliding and coaches’ whistles tweeting filled the air at Gator Field last Friday evening, as the Pennsylvania team in this weekend’s 44th Big 30 All-Star Charities Classic made its annual visit to Port Allegany for a two-hour practice session.
Afterward, Tony Gerg liked what he’d seen from his squad. The Elk County Catholic head coach admitted to some “sleepless nights” after the first couple of workouts, but said, “By Tuesday of this week, I could see a bounce in their step. The last two nights, the offense looked like it was in a rhythm. That’s what we were looking for.”
Acknowledging the challenges in molding players from the 13 different high schools in the southern half of the Big 30 area into a cohesive unit in just nine padded practices, Gerg noted, “These are new kids. First time a lot of them have met each other, ever. They’re being supportive, they’re bringing each other up. They know how to win games, they just have to learn how to do it as a unit.
“I feel a lot better than I did a week and a half ago.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Port Allegany defensive tackle TyDel Green, the lone Gator tabbed for this year’s roster.
“It’s going good. Things are coming together,” he said. “Everybody’s kind of getting closer together. Some of us haven’t played together in a long time, or even ever seen each other, but it’s coming along pretty well. We’re more in rhythm now.”
One additional wrinkle for this year’s Pennsy offense: Gerg and his staff run some of their plays from the single-wing offense, a system most of the other local schools had only seen on decades-old film before facing the Crusaders’ version. Devised more than a century ago by the legendary “Pop” Warner, the predecessor of the “shotgun” formation relies on a combination of deception and blocking mismatches to keep the opposing defense on its heels.
“Weird stuff,” Gerg said, chuckling. “It’s kind of the same approach we run with our kids: If you look at it and you’re open to it, it’s pretty fun. I think it fits well, because it gives you the opportunity to hand the ball off to everybody. It’s an all-star game. We want everybody to be involved in this thing, everybody get their touches. That’s the main game plan.
“And win,” he concluded with a smile.
On the other side of the ball, Green and his teammates are adapting to the mandatory 4-3 defense.
“Definitely a challenge,” he said. “Something new to learn, but most of us have it down.”
And the work, Green said, is well worth it.
“It’s a commitment, for sure, going to every practice in different towns,” he said. “But it’s definitely very nice to be able to say you’ve been asked to play in the game. And it’s for a good cause, all the charity work that goes into it. The Big 30, it’s a big organization. A lot of work, a lot of time not just for the players, but for the organization as well.
“It’s definitely an achievement for everyone who’s been told they can play in the Big 30.”
There’s a banquet for the participants on Thursday night, and a parade and tailgate party on Saturday afternoon, but Green is already focusing on one thing: Kickoff.
“Saturday night, 7 o’clock,” he said.
The Big 30 All-Star Charities Classic, a game between teams of graduated seniors from Allegany, Cattaraugus, and eastern Chautauqua counties in New York and Potter, McKean, Warren, Elk, and Cameron in Pennsylvania, has raised more than $1.6 million for various organizations and individuals in need across the Twin Tiers. New York leads the series, 22-19-2, but Pennsy’s 38-20 win last year earned the Keystone State squad the home sideline for this year’s game at Bradford’s Interstate Parkway Field.
In addition to Green, Port Allegany cheerleaders Marianna Seefeldt, Karlye Rifle, Morgan Causer and Homecoming Queen Autumn Buchsenschutz are also taking part in this week’s festivities.
Saturday’s parade will start at 2:30 p.m., with participants asked to line up in the Best Western parking lot at 12:30, and proceed down Main Street to the Pitt-Bradford athletic fields on Campus Drive. There will be a tailgate party in the high school parking lot outside the football field in the pavilion. As this is a high school campus, no alcohol or tobacco products are permitted anywhere on the grounds.
Gates will open at 5 p.m., with pregame activities set to begin at 6:15.