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Gridiron's Greater Good
by Kayla Dubchansky
Jun 19, 2009 | 1332 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Recent Red High graduate was named the MVP for the Blue team in a losing cause at Friday night's Sertoma Classic.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Recent Red High graduate was named the MVP for the Blue team in a losing cause at Friday night's Sertoma Classic.
The Sparks Sertoma has been working with local businesses in the Sparks-Reno community for the past few months to put together the 2009 Sertoma Football Classic, held Friday night at Mackay Stadium.

The Classic is used as the one of two very large annual fundraisers for the Sparks Sertoma, each year.

“We’re a service club,” Sertoma member Doug Voelz said. “We try to do good things in the community like giving out money … This is our major fundraiser. This and our golf tourney in May is how we raise money.”

The Classic, which was won 32-12 by the Silver over the Blue Friday, was hosted on the University of Nevada's campus. The game features nearly 90 student-athletes from 27 area schools. Voelz said that seeing the athletes get along with teammates from other schools is most enjoyable for him.

“I think it’s the realization that the kids have that the players they played against, and sort of were their rivals and they didn’t like, all of the sudden, they realize they’re good guys and good athletes,” Voelz said.”They make friends because they’re teammates. That’s always the nicest part.”

A pair of coaches from northern Nevada 3A schools were also selected as head coaches for the Classic. Rick Walker from Dayton High coached the Blue Team, featuring six players from Reed.

“I think it’s a total win-win for these kids,” Walker said. “We get to showcase them …. At the same time they’re raising money for Sertoma. I think it’s a great way for our kids to have an impact on bring back to their community.”

Jeff Knutson from Fernley High headed up the Silver Team, with three players from Sparks and seven from Spanish Springs.

“I think it’s the biggest goal for the high school kids to get selected to it,” Knutson said. “They all want to play in the game. Getting to coach these kids is different than coaching your normal team. It’s a big honor. You don’t have to teach them anything. You just have to show them where to go.”

At the end of the day, Knutson came out victorious, with the 20-point victory over the Blue team. The winning coach gets to display a trophy at his school for the next year with his name on it. It has the name of all of the previous winning coaches on it as well. Knutson will have the trophy until the 2010 Sertoma game, when the next winning coach will display it at their school.

Knutson wasn’t the only trophy recipient of the night. A Most Valuable Player was selected from each team, and each MVP got their own personal trophy. For the Silver team, Hug star Duke Williams, who quarterbacked the majority of the game for Silver, took the MVP.

Lennox Pierce from Reed took home the MVP award for the Blue team.

“It wasn’t a goal to get it,” Pierce said after the game. “It’s a pleasure. It’s an honor. Even to be elected to come in. And getting the MVP is just indescribable.”

Both coaches understood and agreed with the benefits of the Classic. There are two proclaimed goals, the first is exposure and enjoyment for the student-athletes.

“For about half of the kids, it’s the last time they’ll put on a helmet and shoulder pads,” Walker said.

The Classic gives students a chance to play with those they have been rivals with, and for some it’s a last ditch effort to be able to play in college. Voelz said that each year a few kids get the opportunity to go to college and play football, after being seen at the Classic.

“It gives the kids a last chance to go out there and play,” Sertoma member Bill Miller said. “It’s the last game for a lot of them and to be able to go up and play at UNR is a big deal. It’s not like playing on a high school field.

“It also provides some scholarships from kids out of town, the cow towns. They don’t get many people looking at them.”

Getting to play at Mackay Stadium and play against many different schools at one time is exciting for the students.

“Oh my! It was so fun,” Pierce said. “We just had a lot of fun getting to know everyone who you went against during the regular season … It’s always good to come home to play on the big field, the big boy field.”

The other goal of the Classic is that it is a large fundraiser for Sparks Sertoma, which does work to help the community, along with donating to charities.

“Our main thing is speech and hearing,” Miller said. “We work with the UNR speech and hearing medical department. They are an affiliate of ours. We have a hearing aid bank where we donate hearing aids. Right now we’re donating to kids under 18 who can’t afford a hearing aid.”

It costs the Sparks Sertoma approximately $15,000 to run the event, but they are able to accrue many donations to help offset the costs.

UNR donates the field, and the officials are also unpaid by the Sertoma.

“They don’t charge for us of the field at all,” Miller said of UNR. “They couldn’t be more accommodating. They have bent over backwards for us.”

Sparks Sertoma creates programs for the event, which are costly but they are able to sell. Local business purchase advertisements in the program as well.

They also have other souvenirs to be purchased at the game. There was a $10 ticket charge at the gate for entrance into the game to help cover costs. Voelz said the event usually sees 1,500 to 2,000 spectators.

“The media help us by providing a little more coverage,” Voelz said. “We provide game jerseys, but we don’t have pants. Each year, generally speaking, a couple schools offer us game pants. This year Spanish Springs and Dayton have provided the pants for the game. Things like that make it possible. If we had to provide everything it would be impossible.”

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Gridiron's Greater Good by Kayla Dubchansky

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