MORGANTOWN — A chill rain relentlessly fell at Pony Lewis Field, but for 28 former Morgantown High football players, the weather was forgotten the instant the lights came on at Pony Lewis Field for the first MHS alumni football game.
And this was no two-hand touch or flag football affair: It was full pads, full contact, and for event coordinator Matt Kelly, it wasn’t very hard to recruit a team willing to suit up in red and blue again.
“A fundraising game like this has been on my radar for a while now and through Alumni Football USA, we were able to put things together pretty quickly,” Kelly said. “I’m from Maryland, but I know all about the MHS football tradition, and we’re excited to bring some of that excitement and interest back to the glory days of the Mohigans.”
The night began with a tribute to a Mohigans legend, as honorary captain Dick Gregg completed the coin toss. Gregg, who played in 1953-’54, remains the only player ever to be named first-team all-state at both offensive guard and defensive tackle in the same season. He turned down four scholarship offers to serve in the Army, and has been an ardent MHS supporter ever since.
“It’s wonderful to be able to talk to the players, and to be here for this game,” the 83-year old smiled just before he was wheeled out to the 50-yard line. “And back in my day, on a night like this, this place would be a mud hole.”
Current MHS coach Matt Lacy, fresh off a satisfying Mohawk Bowl victory over University, enjoyed reconnecting with some of his old players in the month of practices leading up to the game against Winfield.
“I’ve been here for 20 years,” he said, “and it’s great to welcome guys back to be part of the program again. It was a privilege to coach them, and for some, it’s their first time on the new field and inside the new locker rooms.
“I saw a bunch of eyes light up when they heard the words full pads,’ ” he grinned. “Granted, while some are actually in better shape now than when they played, lots are not.”
Besides the inspirational Mr. Gregg, the oldest man on the field, fresh from the class of 1975, was offensive lineman Jim Romito, who had a specific reason to suit up.
“It’s a father-son thing with my boy, Nick (who graduated in 2011),” Romito said. “My wife thinks I’m a little crazy, but I just wanted to get in a couple plays and represent my class and have some fun with Nick. Besides, I could get hurt walking down the street, so if I’m gonna get hurt, I might as well be having fun doing it.”
Former star running back and 2005 state champion Spencer Farley was also a little apprehensive about the injury potential, but admitted that his worries disappeared once he snapped his chinstrap.
“It all came right back,” he laughed. “It’s been a long time since I got hit or hit anybody, but it’s amazing how good it feels to be back on this sideline. All the excitement, the emotion, the fun. It’s a blast.
“And there’s no doubt that full contact and full pads are the best part,” he continued. “The guys wanted to go full gear in practice, but I convinced them that if we did that, we’d have about six guys able to play tonight. Of course, the best part of it all is that we’re doing it to raise money for the program. It’s all about the pride of the Mohigans.”