One more time in Red and Black
FOREST CITY – For some it’s been nearly 30 years and for others it’s been just over one, but for almost 50 East Rutherford alums, they’ll be suiting up one more time for Cavalier football on Saturday, Jan. 12 when they travel to East Burke to do battle with their alumni team.
There are a slew of familiar names on the team despite the fact they might have a little more facial hair and bigger guts than their younger days. Needless to say, much has changed since the last time they put on a set of pads.
“I’m a little bit bigger, slower and I’ve put on some weight,” former Cavalier quarterback Jordan Mabe joked. “I practiced everyday in high school and now I’m just out here three times a week. My cardio was much better in high school, now I’m winded after three plays.”
“It takes a little longer to heal and I’m a little more sore every morning,” former defensive tackle Ace Champion added.
But whether they’re ready or not, 3 p.m. on Saturday is quickly approaching. It’s a moment that many of these players have been preparing for since October.
“It seems a lot more real now than the estimate on when we thought we would play Central,” said Ben Collins, a 1998 graduate of East Rutherford. “This game is concrete and it’s almost here.”
Collins recruited former Cavalier palyer and coach Brad Causby to help coach this team largely built upon guys who hadn’t cracked open a play book in over a decade. Causby has more than 20 years of coaching experience coming at East, Chase and now as an assistant at Shelby. This however, is a much different project for the veteran coach.
“The only thing I really tried to do was pear down what they were doing. They’ll be the ones making the big decisions on game day,” Causby said. “They showed me an offensive package that they had and it was a bunch of different things and I told them that they aren’t in high school now and they’re going to get tired and might not remember all that stuff now.”
Needless to say, football practice is gravely different for grown men than it is for teenagers.
“I’ve missed some days, they’ve missed some days. It’s hard when you’re older when you aren’t a teenage kid that wakes up every day at 6:30 a.m. to be at school by 8 a.m. and when school lets out you go to practice. Now you’re an adult and you have kids, a family, work and other things you have to deal with. It’s just a whole different thing,” Causby said. “But they do listen a lot better now than they did when they were in high school.”
Despite the differences, many of the players are familiar with Causby from his playing and coaching days at East.
“I’ve really enjoyed seeing so many guys that I haven’t seen in years,” Causby said. “Getting to see all these kids I coached again is what has made it all worth it for me. I‘m anxious and I hope everyone is healthy when it’s all over with.”
Injury seems to be the worst case scenario for many of the players.
“My parents are nervous because I haven’t played in forever,” Mabe said.
Collins isn’t worried about much of anything; he has a wife to do enough worrying for the both of them.
“She’s a lot more nervous than I am but she’s excited,” Collins said of his wife’s concern. “I hope and pray that nobody gets hurt because we don’t have to go to class tomorrow, we have to get up and go to work.”
Aside from his wife being in the stands, Collins will have another special spectator cheering him on during Saturday’s game, his son.
“It’ll be cool even though I don’t know what he’ll understand since he’s only 2,” said Collins. “I’m looking forward to having him there and looking back on it one day.”
The younger players are relishing the opportunity to play with Cavaliers that came before them juts as much as those they played with in the past.
“I’m just excited to play this game with a lot of people that graduated before us. I’ve made new friends and learned who played before me. I even have a few players here that I played with in high school,” Mabe said.
“Most important to me is just being able to suit up again with all the guys I played with in high school and the new guys I wasn’t able to play with,” Collins added. “I’ll actually get to play with some of the kids that I coached here for a little while which is pretty cool.”
The team is set to arrive at East Burke three hours prior to the 3 p.m. kickoff on Saturday to suit up and check out equipment provided by Alumni Football USA.
“In the first quarter everyone will have their nerves and butterflies but after that we should be fine and just go out there and have fun,” said Mabe when asked about stepping on the gridiron after being away from the game.
“It’ll definitely be different but I think the biggest thing for everyone is nerves,” Collins added. “It’s been 14 years since I’ve suited up.”
Pre-sale tickets are being sold for $10 by the alumni players and the Big Red Boosters Club with half of the ticket sales going to East Rutherford High and local youth football programs.
As much as Saturday is about having fun for these former players, the feeling of reliving such a special time in each player’s life will be hard to forget.
“It’s been good to put on the red and black again,” said the class of 2001’s Wade Carpenter who will be playing middle linebacker for the Cavaliers on Saturday. “I’ll definitely feel a little nostalgia knowing that I’ll be playing for the Cavaliers again.”