Gerg and AML team having fun preparing for Friday's Varsichetti game

Staff Writer

Smiles, laughter, and good-natured kidding were abundant at Tuesday’s Allegany Mountain League (AML) All-Star practice for Friday’s 5th Annual Frank Varischetti Football Game being played on the Frank Varischetti Field in Brockway.

Head coach Tony Gerg of Elk County Catholic, his assistants and players displayed sheer joy while working out for the contest that pits 2020 graduates from the former AML against their counterparts from the former Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference (KSAC). The game was originally scheduled for June 26 but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers put together a plan adhering to all safety guidelines paving the way for Friday’s 7 p.m. kickoff.

“My hat’s off to them (organizers). Everything is a risk, sometimes more than others. Certainly, when you weigh it all out it’s worth the risk right now. I’m sure that’s debatable. I give those guys a lot of credit for what they do in supporting us and putting this together to give the kids one last shot to play,” Gerg said.

While the game will be played with no fans the AML mentor is happy things came together. “Any football is good football. I was as excited as the kids were. Everybody is on pins and needles and trying to get back to some normality. Anytime we get to do that is a good thing. Moving forward shows the rest of the PIAA we can play football while taking the necessary precautions,” he added.

To say the AML team is talented is an understatement. Among the players are 21 District 9 Large School, Small School North, and Small School South Division all-stars and honorable mentions including Robert Briggs, Matt Dush, Austin Green, Paul Gresco, Greg Simon, and Jake Wickett of Ridgway, Jake Alcorn, Aaron Hottel, Teddy Race, and Kevin Scharba of Kane, ECC's Leo Gregory, John Wittman, and Jared Emmert, Caleb Nuzzo and Derek Sundafrank of Bradford, Caleb Rieder of Cameron County, Thomas Wilson of Coudersport, Cameron Magee of Otto-Edred, Josh Rees of Port Allegany, Jacob Disshon of Sheffield and Smethport's and Bryent Johnson.

“I wonder what they need me for. They’re very coachable kids and they know the game pretty well so it’s just a matter of letting them play. I guess I’m just the eye candy,” said a laughing coach Gerg. “I don’t want to screw it up. I figure I’ll let them go out there and have some fun. You try to do the right things. You try to do your best to put the kids in the best position and sit back and enjoy it. We’re having a blast. They’re a great group of kids its non-stop with them,” he added.

The Elk County Catholic coach is looking forward to coaching his three D-9 all-stars along with Stephen Bobby one last time. “Anytime I can coach my own kids a last time I’m going to jump at the opportunity. It’s a special group as they all are. It’s good to send your kids off in the right direction into life,” he said of his four Crusaders.

Gerg’s regular-season assistants Eric Weisner, Bill Crisp, Nick Werner, and Jared Braun, his brother Mike, son Anthony junior, and Elkers head coach Mark Heindl will be joining him on the sidelines. “It’s a good group of guys. You can’t ask for much better than what we have,” the head coach said. Markus Gerg and Mike Gerg will be serving as ball boys.

The AML won the first three games and will look to avenge last year’s 20-7 loss. Hard-hitting has been the standard in all four games and Gerg expects the same Friday night. “It is a pretty intense game. When you’re putting kids out there that are familiar with one another and they're trying to get one last shot in on that kid they know it gets heated at times,” he said.

With no tickets being sold for the game fans can follow the play-by-play action of Rick Porter and JJ Michaels on WKBI, 93.9 FM – B94 and can watch live on WDDH’s, 97.5 FM – The Hound Facebook page.

Gerg is happy fans will get a chance to follow the action despite not being in the stadium. “It’s not ideal but sometimes you have to take the good with the bad and vice versa. At least people get to watch these guys one last time,” he said.

AML schools include Ridgway, Bradford, Brockway, Curwensville, Elk County Catholic, Kane, Cameron County, Coudersport, Otto-Eldred, and Smethport. KSAC schools include Brookville, Clarion, Karns City, Moniteau, Punxsutawney, St. Marys, Clarion-Limestone, Redbank Valley, and Union/AC Valley.

Hayden Haupright joins his six Elkers teammates on the roster and Chris Stewart joins his four Kane teammates on the AML roster which also includes, Jon Wood of Brockway, Colton Gietler of Otto-Eldred, DJ Michelitsch and Eli Petruzzi of Port Allegany, and Caden Smead of Sheffield.

Jake Walter, Cain Pfoutz, Forest Cressley, and Gage Burford of St. Marys will play for the KSAC. Players were nominated and selected by voting of head coaches from the two former leagues.

Gerg stopped and pondered when asked what he’s going to tell his team before they take the field Friday night. “I guess I haven’t thought about that. The one thing I would say is that just having the opportunity to be around these kids I’m a better person for it. Year in and year out you kind of forget that a little bit but once you’re out here with them you’re constantly reminded of it,” he said.