CARS HOMES JOBS

Football games a holiday staple

Pop Warner reunion has grown over past decade

Thursday, November 28, 2013
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Dylan Gotay, 13, of Schenectady, runs up field while playing a traditional Thanksgiving Day game of flag football Thursday at Mohonasen High School in Rotterdam.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber
Dylan Gotay, 13, of Schenectady, runs up field while playing a traditional Thanksgiving Day game of flag football Thursday at Mohonasen High School in Rotterdam.

— Buck Williams was the guy who snapped the football to Noah Friedman during their varsity days at Mohonasen High School.

Only that was three years ago. On Thursday, the roles were reversed, and Williams was dropping back to throw the pigskin.

“I took over for him,” said the smiling Williams, gesturing to his old teammate. “He’s a little rusty.”

Of course, some rust is par for the course on the frozen gridiron Thanksgiving morning, especially with a gusty wind and temperatures that seemed more conducive to watching football on television somewhere warm. But for the roughly three dozen former Pop Warner players and their families, playing a full morning of flag football has become a tradition on the fourth Thursday of November that is just as ingrained as eating platefuls of turkey.

Williams, for instance, ventured out to the football field on the Mohonasen campus around 8 a.m. to make sure the group had a place to play. Other players showed up shortly thereafter, and the group started games that lasted until around noon.

It’s a tradition embraced by Friedman and his father, Mark. For a decade now, they’ve organized the games at Mohonasen, and each year, the crowd of players seems to grow.

The games originated with a group of fathers of boys playing Pop Warner football in Rotterdam. Friedman, who was then a coach, helped organize a pickup game with some of the players. Every year, the pickup game grew until now, the group has enough players to field four teams, some featuring players from the area playing Division II and Division III college football.

“This started off as a father-son thing with the fathers of the kids I used to coach, and it’s just grown.” Mark Friedman said. “The majority of these kids, they’ve been here for 10 years now.”

Some played for Mohonasen, while others played in the neighboring Schalmont district, including several among the Sabres team that competed for the state championship at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse in 2010. Most have played — or have children playing — in Pop Warner, meaning the traditional game is almost like a reunion for them.

“I haven’t seen a lot of these guys in a long time,” said Noah Friedman. “It’s nice to get a bunch of these guys here, hang out and just play.”

And it’s a tradition his father can see enduring the test of time. With more players showing up each year, he sees the flag football games continuing on through the next generation of football players growing up in Rotterdam.

“This is going to be a tradition that’s not going to stop,” he said. “I could see my son doing this when he’s in his 40s. The momentum’s there.”

 
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