Reliving glory days

Former high school football stars to suit up for alumni games

November 24, 2010 Cranberry Local Sports

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Former Mars High football great Bill Bair gains yardage in a 2007 game against Riverside. Bair, a junior running back at Duquesne University, plans to help coach the Mars alumni team in a game against Knoch Dec. 5.

Yes, you can go home again. Josh Kniess, Dusty Ziacik, Matt Schandelmeier, Bobby Woods and other former Butler County football greats will do so as part of the Alumni Football USA program.

Robert Bishop, Pennsylvania director for the organization, which organizes high school alumni football games, said six county schools will be involved in such contests.

Freeport plays at Apollo-Ridge at 7 p.m. today and Slippery Rock heads to Wilmington for a 7 p.m. game Sunday.

Karns City will play Moniteau at noon Dec. 5 while Knoch visits Mars at 6 p.m. the same day.

Most of the rosters, which contain at least 40 players, were assembled through word of mouth or on Facebook.

“We’ve had plenty of interest in these Western Pennsylvania games,” Bishop said. “We had to bring in a second equipment truck and 60 extra sets of shoulder pads to accommodate everyone.”

Alumni Football USA is putting on 18 games, involving 36 teams and more than 1,700 former players.

Games will be officiated by current high school and/or college officials. No crackback blocking or blitzing will be allowed and defenses can’t use more than four down linemen.

Besides that, it’s football as one would see on a Friday night. Players are paying $75 each to participate.

The Moniteau School District is donating use of its stadium to host Karns City. Two brothers, Dave McGregor for Moniteau and Zach McGregor for KC, are playing against each other in that game.

“We’re treating this as a community event,” said 1982 Moniteau graduate and assistant coach Lewis Stoughton. “We’re trying to get cheerleaders and marching bands together.

“Don Deal (a 1979 graduate) is our oldest player, but we’ve got five guys who can still run a 4.6 or better in the 40-yard dash, so we’ve got some speed,” he added.

Cecil Blauser will be Moniteau’s head coach. Its backfield will consist of former 1,000-yard rushers Steve Saul, Schandelmeier and James Shope, last year’s Butler Eagle Scoring Trophy winner.

Rick Belles, the 1993 Eagle Scoring Trophy winner, and 2001 trophy winner Billy Graham will be playing for Karns City. Dayne O’Donnell, Ian Ferguson and Brad Ramsey will coach the Gremlin alumni.

“Anytime Karns City and Moniteau get a chance to play each other in anything, it’s a rivalry,” said O’Donnell, a 2001 KC graduate. “None of us could pass this up. We have 32 guys who have already paid their money.”

Stoughton anticipates a big turnout for the Sunday afternoon affair.

“It’s not an ideal starting time, I guess, but there’s plenty of scuttlebutt in both communities about this game,” he said.

John Krauland, a 2003 Knoch graduate, helped organize the Knights’ roster to face Mars.

“As soon as I heard of this, I jumped all over it,” Krauland said. “Anytime you get together with your high school buddies, you talk about the football days. ... You want to be part of it again.

“(Running back) Dusty Ziacik and I played football together all the way back to the (youth Saxonburg) Spartans. A chance to be teammates one more time — you just can’t turn that down.”

Mars graduate and two-time Eagle Scoring Trophy winner Bill Bair wants to play in the game, even though he’s currently a running back at Duquesne University.

“I thought about playing, but I have to resist the urge,” Bair said. “I can’t risk the injury. But I’ll be there. I’ll probably help coach.

“I’ll guarantee this much: Every single person playing in that game will be the happiest they’ve felt in a long time,” he added.

Travis McDougall, a 2001 Slippery Rick High graduate, helped assemble a 50-player roster to take on longtime nemesis Wilmington.

“We’ve got three guys from our 1984 (WPIAL semifinalist) team to play,” McDougall said. “Wilmington has always dominated us.

“Maybe we can finally beat them for once.”

Kniess, another former Eagle Scoring Trophy winner and the Slippery Rock University career all-purpose yardage leader, will be playing for the Rockets. Former SR coach Mike Kish will coach the alumni team.

Shawn Stivason, a 1993 Freeport graduate and longtime Yellowjackets freshman coach, has helped to assemble a 29-player roster. He’s hoping they land a few more.

Former stellar receiver Bobby Woods, along with ex-collegiate players Jake Scott and Derek Payne, are on the Freeport roster.

“I’d love to play, but I broke my hand earlier in the year,” Stivason said. “But I’ll be there coaching.

“Just the excitement of this is enough for me. We all appreciated playing years ago. About half of our roster is pre-2000 graduates.

“Getting one more chance to put on a uniform and pads again ... there’s tons of guys willing to pay the price for that,” Stivason added.

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