The Big 30 Charities Classic is being played Saturday, Aug. 7, at Parkway Field in Bradford. The Pennsylvania squad will be led by Elkers head coach Mark Heindl and Ridgway assistants Rick Viglioni, Mickey Delhunty, Jack Kifer, and Tony Defilippi.
The group was to coach last year. But, unfortunately, the game was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Charities Classic President Bob South spoke about last year's decision during an interview in late March.
"We waited until [the end of June] to cancel the game. There were uncertainties, and we didn't know what was going to happen with [COVID-19]. We thought the welfare of the kids meant more than everything. That's why we canceled the game," he said.
Eight Elkers – Robert Briggs, Conner Grazioli, Hayden Haupright, Paul Gresco, Greg Simon, Jake Wickett, Austin Green, and Matt Dush were selected to play in 2020. Cheerleaders – Emma Cobaugh, Lidia Duffield, Brooke Thomas, Ridgway Homecoming Queen Gabbi Rohr, and Johnsonburg queen Haylee Cherry were also selected to participate in the festivities.
Teddy Race, Jake Alcorn, Kevin Scharba, Aaron Hottel, Chris Stewart, and Caleb Holt of Kane had also been selected along with Elk County Catholic's Stephen Bobby, Anthony Gerg, Leo Gregory, and John Wittman; and Jake Walter, Gage Burford, Forest Cressley, Sam Dush, and Cain Pfoutz of St. Marys. Kane cheerleader Kennedy Himes had also been selected to perform.
According to Dave Ezzolo of the Big 30 Committee, the 2020 players, queens, and cheerleaders will be honored at halftime.
"It's going to be a bitter-sweet day for those kids. Obviously, they didn't get the closure they needed with the game not being played," Heindl said. "Also, the senior class this year didn't get the full allotment of games they should have had because of COVID. I know they're looking forward to seeing thousands of people in the stands. It's going to be a great day for everybody involved."
Heindl is happy to be part of the 2021 game - the 47th edition of the Classic.
"Pennsylvania football in [our area] is phenomenal. There are a lot of great coaches and a lot of great kids. I'm looking forward to coaching," the Elkers coach said. "I can speak for our staff – we're all excited."
Elkers Alex Bon, Dominic Cherry, Ricky Delhunty, and Austin Scruggs are included on the roster. In addition, five Kane Wolves, Josh Buhl, Reese Novosel, Bobby Rumcik, Zuke Smith, and Gus Traugott; Nick Crisp, Sam Kaul, Bryan Schatz, Mitchell Troha, and Alex Smith from Elk County Catholic; and St. Marys Flying Dutchmen James Davis, Simon Sheeley, Garrett Bauer, Terry Williams III, and Conner Bressler will join the four Ridgway players.
Johnsonburg Homecoming Queen Mackenzie Freeman and her fellow queens from Kane Sarri Swanson and Samantha Vavala from St. Marys will also be part of the festivities.
The game began in 1974. It pits recent graduates from Pennsylvania against their Big 30 area New York counterparts. Proceeds from the annual Charity Classic are donated to individuals in need and charitable organizations in McKean, Elk, Cameron, Potter, and Warren in Pennsylvania and Allegany, Cattaraugus, and Chautauqua counties in New York.
After Pennsylvania had won the three previous contests, the 2019 game ended 27-27. New York holds a 22-21-3 edge.
According to Ezzolo, this year's Big 30 Parade will start at 2:30 p.m. and honors two committee members who passed away since the last game – Mr. Jack Karnes and Mr. Bob Dunn.
"Both served their communities and our game committee with passion and kindness. They are sadly missed, and our game is going to miss their dedication," Ezzolo said.
The stadium will open at 5 p.m., and the game will kick off at 7 p.m.
The team started practice on Monday in Bradford and will be in Kane on July 30, in St. Marys on Aug. 3, in Ridgway on Aug. 5, and the final practice on Friday, Aug. 6, will be held at Memorial Field in Johnsonburg.