For some men, football is much more than just a game — it's an absolute passion.
Their zeal for the sport begins as young boys and is normally passed down like a family heirloom, from grandfather to father to son. It quickly becomes an obsession. By the time they reach high school, the game often becomes the focal point of their teenage lives.
Unfortunately, for the vast majority of athletes, the thrill of playing on Friday nights becomes just a fond memory once their high school careers end. Most men end up channeling their enthusiasm for the sport into becoming fans or coaches.
That's simply the nature of the game.
Football is not generally considered a lifetime endeavor, such as golf or bowling. It's just too physical and too intense.
Here in York County, however, that outlook seems to be changing.
Susquehannock vs. Spring Grove: In late August, graduates of Susquehannock and Spring Grove competed in a real, full-contact football contest. No flags or two-hand touch. Real, honest-to-goodness blocking and tackling with real pads and real helmets.
Proceeds from the game helped the Susuqhehannock athletic booster club and a few other organizations.
From all indications, the game was success. It even featured a few of York County's most famous players from recent memory, including Chaz Powell from Susquehannock and the Shaw brothers from Spring Grove.
Dover vs. West York: Now, traditional rivals West York and Dover are preparing for their own alumni football battle.
The game is set for 6 p.m. Saturday at Dover High School, and a portion of the proceeds will help the Greater Dover Area Dollars for Scholars (GDADFS) and West York Education Foundation programs. Like the Susquehannock-Spring Grove game, the Dover-West York contest is being put on by Alumni Football USA, which has been in the alumni football business for thee decades. Players compete at their own risk of injury, but Alumni Football USA does have liability insurance.
The buzz for the Dover-West York game has been building for weeks along the Route 74 corridor that connects the two football-mad communities. Players for both teams have been practicing and preparing for more than a month. They range in age from 19 to 56.
Katie Callahan, the president of the GDADFS program and an organizer of the event, said Dover is expected to have a roster of about 55 players, while West York's roster is about 40 strong.
More than just football: The game, however, is about more than just football players. Callahan, who is a 2007 Dover grad, also expects about 16 alumni cheerleaders for Dover and eight for West York. There is also going to be an alumni pep band for Dover.
Callahan said 700 advance tickets have been sold already and she's expecting a crowd of about 1,000. Callahan is strongly encouraging advance ticket purchases because the charities won't make any money from day-of-the-event ticket sales.
“This is a community event celebrating athleticism, school pride and the love of football,” Callahan said.
Given the positive reaction to this year's event, Callahan expects the game to become an every-other-year happening.
There will be T-shirts for sale at the event, a 50-50 raffle and a chance to win one of two signed John Kuhn footballs. Kuhn is a Dover High School graduate who is currently playing fullback in the NFL for the New Orleans Saints. There will also be an opportunity to win free entry into the second annual Shooting for Scholarships Sporting Clay Shoot on April 22.
Origins of the event: According to Callahan, the event's origins were born when West York alum Tyler Real and Dover alum Aaron Hacker approached her about arranging the game. Although competing at rival high schools growing up, they actually were in each other's weddings this past summer.
“It is really incredible to hear how much this game means to some of the players, especially because it is full contact and with their alma maters' names on the jerseys,” Callahan said. “There are cousins competing with and against each other, and we actually have at least one father from Dover (56-year-old Ron Blymire) and his son from West York (33-year-old Matthew Blymire) playing against one another. That's not something that happens every day.”
No, it's not.
It sounds like it's going to be quite the event — one that football fans in Dover and West York won't want to miss.
Steve Heiser is sports editor for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the game, visit the Greater Dover Area Dollars for Scholars website and click on the link for the game. Or you can call Katie Callahan at (717) 314-3400.