A group of former Cedartown High School players gathered over the weekend and committed themselves to lacing up their cleets once more and taking to the gridiron for one more shot at reliving former glory in an alumni football game fundraiser coming up on August 23.
The game, being organized by Alumni Football USA, will take Cedartown High’s former football stars - now older and wiser - and pit them against their counterparts at Pepperell to help raise money for both football programs.
Jarrett Hargrave, the director for the Southeastern United States for Alumni Football, said during the first practice for alumni that their commitment to the game must be total, including the $100 participation fee.
He said this is only the fifth year Alumni Football USA has been operating nationwide, and that the program has already played more than 500 games across the country.
“We do this because it gets former players to get involved, to become a part of the program again,” Hargrave said during a player’s meeting on Sunday during the team’s first practice.
Hargrave said the game will be full contact, but with some caveats. For instance, linebackers won’t be allowed to blitz the quarterback, and players will be playing under high school rules.
Participants will be able to take advantage of breaking one particular rule not allowed in high school: celebrations.
“This is your chance to play in the Super Bowl, so get out there an act like it,” he said.
Already more than two dozen Cedartown alumni are signed on to play, and Hargrave said he hoped more would join up to play.
Hargrave said those who are interested in playing footbnall but never got the chance to in high school can use the opportunity to get on the field and play now.
He added the organization allows for players who have a hard time coming up with money to participate in their “No Man Left Behind” program, which gives players the opportunity to pay $50 to play and sell $50 worth of tickets to cover the rest of their expenses.
The cost to play in the game covers Alumni Football USA’s purchases of equipment, hiring of officials for the game locally, and other surprises to make the day special.
“We really have a lot planned for you guys,” he said.
Cedartown’s not just brought back old players for the game, but old coaches too.
Milton Hunnicutt, former coach of the Bulldogs, said that he’s excited to be back out on the field with the rest of his volunteer coaching staff.
“I retired in 2000, so it’s been a while since I’ve been on the field too,” he said. “I think it’s going to be fun. We’ve got a lot of good guys out here who have been in the community for a long time.... I think it’s going to be fun game for everyone.”
Hunnicutt said that he’s looking forward to coaching not just the players who have already signed up, but he hopes the others who will join up once they hear they have a chance to play again.
“We just hope everyone will come out and support this, and we want to get more players out here,” he said. “I know there are more players out there who want to play again.”
As far as being concerned about the age of his players, he doesn’t see any issues with toughness. More likely, he said the biggest problem will be with getting players on the same page as far as his coaching style in offense and defense.
“I’m going by the old KISS method,” he said. “We’re going to keep things as simple as possible. These guys have all played under different systems, have seen plays called in different ways. So the idea is to keep it simple for everyone and to have fun.”
Bulldogs head coach Scott Hendrix said he felt the fundraiser was a great opportunity for the school, but also for those who are participating.
“We’re hoping it’ll help rejuvinate these guys, who didn’t get an opportunity after high school to go on and play college or professional ball. So its great to be able to get these guys out on the field one more time, and really adds to what we’re trying to do with our program.”