PORT ALLEGANY — The first local sights and sounds of the upcoming high school football season were on display at Gator Field in Port Allegany last Thursday evening, as the Pennsylvania squad practiced for this weekend’s Big 30 All-Star Charities Classic. Following some special teams work, the team split into units to continue installing the game plan, with the offense running plays at one end of the field while the defense drilled under the other goalpost.
“I think we’re progressing,” said Pennsy head coach Jeff Puglio. “It’s different for them – the terminology, schemes, the way we call things versus the way they’re used to it. We’re working through that; we’re getting to that point where they’re getting comfortable.”
The 10th-year Bradford High mentor added, “I like the energy. It’s just fun coaching all-stars. They’re smart, they’re athletic.”
Now in its fifth decade since the inaugural game in 1974, the Big 30 Charities Classic has raised and distributed almost $1.7 million to individuals in need and charitable organizations throughout the Twin Tiers, covering McKean, Cameron, Elk, Potter and Warren counties in Pennsylvania and Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties in New York.
The 46th annual rendition is slated to kick off at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 3, at Parkway Field in Bradford. Pennsylvania’s 37-22 victory last August, its third in a row, cut New York’s lead in the long series to 22-21-2.
A quintet of Coudersport Falcons will help power the Keystone State offense, with linemen Eli Ayers, Preston Cobb, and Wyatte Osborne opening holes for Stevie Kelly and Mason Klesa.
“They’re tough kids,” Puglio said. “We’ve got quite a few of their linemen, and their offense is similar to the offense we’re running, so they were able to pick this up really quickly. I like the way they’re looking, the way they move, and it’s nice to have a bunch of them because they work together really well.”
Puglio mentioned that Klesa was looking good at quarterback and said of Kelly, who displayed game-breaking potential while piling up 1,782 yards and 28 touchdowns for the 2018 District 9 champions, “Those are the type of kids you need in a game like this. You’ve got to rely on them.”
Meanwhile, Port Allegany’s Collin Smith, the only Gator playing in the game this year, will be lining up at weakside linebacker on the Pennsy defense.
“He’s a hard-nosed kid; he’s easy to coach,” said Puglio, who’s calling the plays on that side of the ball. “He’s like a sponge, he absorbs everything. He’s picking up things quickly. You can tell the more he understands, the faster he’s playing. He’s aggressive, he’s not afraid of anybody out here. I like the way he plays. I wish I had a few of those in Bradford.”
With the Owls staff coaching in the game for the first time since 2008, a 27-0 Pennsylvania win helmed by former BAHS mentor Steve Ackerman, this is Puglio’s first chance to be involved with the experience.
“It’s been an honor,” he said. “For me, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m a Bradford kid, I’ve been going to the Big 30 Game since something like 1991. I remember the grass field, when they painted the Big 30 colors on the field. I remember all of that, so to finally get to be a part of it, it’s been really fun. It’s something I’d never turn down. It’s an honor to do it.
“I’ve loved it so far, and I’m looking forward to next week and to the game.”
Gameday festivities begin with a parade through downtown Bradford starting at 2:30 p.m., with participants asked to gather at the Best Western parking lot for lineup an hour beforehand. The parade route travels from Davis St. down Main Street, turning right onto Mechanic Street, then left onto Barbour Street to the endpoint at Campus Drive.
A pre-game tailgate party begins in the Parkway Field lot at 3 p.m., with the stadium gates opening at 5 p.m. Food will be available for sale at the tailgate, with proceeds benefitting the Relay For Life, but tailgaters should remember that no alcohol or tobacco is allowed on Bradford High School property.
Due to last year’s win, Pennsylvania will once again claim the home side of Parkway Field, with New York providing the officiating crew. Pregame activities will commence at 6:15 p.m.
Tickets are $7, and commemorative programs (including numbers for various giveaways conducted during the game) will be available, also for a $7 cost.
For more information, visit the Big 30 website at http://www.Big30football.org. For those wishing to obtain Big 30 Charities request forms, please send to Big 30 Charities Request Forms, P.O. Box 82, Bradford, Pa. 16701, or call Jim Giordono at 919-723-8194, Tom Bowes at 814-368-7096 or Dick Cavallaro at 814-368-6013.