The cracks echoing through the night air in Hillsboro on June 17 won’t be from baseball bats of the boys of summer; instead, they’ll be coming from the helmets and pads of the boys of fall.
More than 60 former Hillsboro and Marion High School football players have been practicing for up to three months for a chance to do something most believed they would never do again — play in a full-contact game against a former rival.
“You always have that itch to put the pads on one more time to see if you can do it,” Shaun Craft, MHS class of 1998, said.
To scratch that itch, each player pays $100 to Alumni Football USA, which has staged more than 1,000 such games in the past 29 years to raise about $770,000 for local schools.
For each pre-game $10 ticket a school sells, it pockets $5, earning up to $2,500 if it sells all of its 500-ticket allotment. Hillsboro also will earn money from concession sales.
The company provides the equipment, facilitates game logistics with local coordinators, and covers insurance. Players walk away with a T-shirt, game film, memories, and hopefully just a few aches and bruises.
“I think the guys understand it for what it is,” Alumni Football representative Scott Moshier said. “It’s full pads. It doesn’t come around often.”
Certain aspects of the game have been modified in deference to age.
“No one’s interested in covering kicks and punts,” Moshier said. We’re just going to start at the 20. There’s no blitzing or stunting. We’ve all got to go to work on Monday. They’re going to be a bit sore anyway.”
“No blitzing or stunting, that kind of thing. Everybody else has other lives and jobs, and nobody can afford the risk of that.”
Since they won’t get pads until game day, practices have focused on refreshing techniques and learning plays.
Using established rivalries is a good way to generate player and fan interest, Moshier said.
The intensity of the cross-county matchup has diminished from the days when Hillsboro and Marion were Cottonwood Valley League rivals, but several players said “bragging rights” come into play.
“You may be friends off the field, but the game kind of means a lot,” Marion’s Cole Lewman said. “You don’t want to lose.”
Moshier said a rematch would be possible, as “Hillsboro owes them a game” if Marion decides it wants to play host to an alumni game.
The game will be 7:30 p.m. June 17 at Wiens Stadium in Hillsboro. Moshier encouraged purchasing tickets in advance, as schools don’t get money from game-day admissions.
Tickets are available in Hillsboro at Central National Bank, Emprise Bank, Great Plains Federal Credit Union, Hillsboro State Bank, and USD 410.
Children younger than 6 get in free, and admission for ages 7 to 11 is $5.