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Football fans have become accustomed to seeing players sporting pink socks and other accessories during October in support of breast cancer awareness. 

For the Central York football program, however, the cause is not just a chance to make a fashion statement on the field, but also a chance to honor all who have battled breast cancer, including two women in the lives of a Panthers’ coach. 

Andy Casale, an assistant on the Central York staff, knows all too well the challenges of having a family member diagnosed with cancer. Casale’s mother, Maryann Casale, and grandmother, Patricia Muffie, both battled breast cancer. 

“It’s something for me that I can honor my family, because some of them aren’t here because of it,” Andy Casale said. “I can sit back and say, ‘I did this and helped for you.’”

Supporting family: His mother was diagnosed in 2005, during his senior year of high school. With the cancer in the early stages, doctors were able to remove the tumors and she has been cancer free ever since. 

Muffie’s cancer wasn’t caught until it was in the later stages and she died in October 2013. 

Every season during October, Andy Casale’s hat features the initials of his mother and grandmother as a way to honor their battles. He has also worn pink athletic tape, wristbands and a necklace over the years on the sideline. 

A new initiative: This season, with the help of his childhood friend and college teammate at Shippensburg University, Central York head coach Josh Oswalt, Casale and the Panthers’ coaching staff have committed to increasing their support for the cause. 

Each year, Central York holds a Pink Out game and this year’s contest is the final home game of the season against York High on Friday. The game will decide the York-Adams League Division I championship.

In previous years, the coaches have gotten the players pink socks to wear, but that wasn’t enough for Casale.

“We’ve done it in the past, but I don’t think it has gotten to the point where I wanted it to get,” Casale said. “They sell shirts every year and I thought: ‘It’s time for us to get involved more.’”

Friday night, the Panthers’ players will take the field in custom pink-and-white socks that feature the team logo, while the coaches will wear pink sweatshirts that include the breast cancer ribbon and the Central York logo. 

A life lesson: Oswalt said that this night provides a chance for the players to learn about how they can use their platform, in what will likely be a sold-out stadium for the biggest game of the season, to do something positive for their community. 

“You’re playing football and you’re drawing thousands of people to your event and you’re able to draw attention to such a great cause,” Oswalt said. “Our guys are just super excited about doing anything that they can to support or draw attention to other things besides themselves.”

The Panthers also held a White Out game this season to support the school’s Mini-THON initiative to support pediatric cancer. Casale said the plan is to make the Pink Out effort an annual event for the football program.

A proud moment: While the focus will be about what happens on the field Friday night, Casale is proud that he was able to do something to honor his mother and grandmother, and the countless others that have battled breast cancer. 

After years of supporting them in silence with initials on his hat or a pink wristband, he is excited to see the field, sidelines and stands all supporting the cause that is so close to his heart and has become so important to the Panthers’ program.

“For a long time I did it without people knowing,” Casale said. “It will be nice to know that I have organized some of this to try to bring the community together and continue to raise awareness, and any kind of funds that we can, to fight cancer. It’s something that all of us face and something that we need to eventually beat some day.”

Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.

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