Jaywalking: Panther payback
Players, coaches, family members and friends of the Pioneer fotball team turned out Sunday at the Bernardston Firehouse for an appreciation luncheon for first responders. The gray-haired man facing the camera is Glen Wilson.
Players shake hands with guests of the Pioneer Football Appreciation Luncheon at the Bernardston firehouse on Sunday. Many attendees jokingly told the players "Good game" as they made their way down the line.
Pioneer football coach Glen Wilson has not forgotten the treatment he and the rest of the Panther football team received in 2009 following a 14-8 overtime loss to Ware High School in the WMass Division IV Super Bowl.
As the team bus rolled back into town that night, the sky suddenly lit up to the surprise of everyone on board the bus.
“I turned to Coach Duprey and I said, ‘Do they know we lost,’” current Pioneer coach Glen Wilson joked.
It was the first of three consecutive trips to the WMass Division IV Super Bowl for Pioneer, and upon their return to the town each season they were greeted by some of the town’s first responders, who were volunteering their time to parade the team through the town and back to the high school. The first and second trips were both somber affairs for the Panthers, but the third year (2011) saw Pioneer earn a 14-8 win over McCann Technical High School for the school’s first Super Bowl victory.
That year was made even more memorable when the fire trucks stopped the buses and asked the seniors and the coaches if they wanted to hop aboard the trucks for a victory parade. Given that chance, who wouldn’t take them up on it, so the players and coaches rode in style atop the ladder truck.
“It was like something out of the movie Hoosiers,” former Pioneer coach Mike Duprey said. “We were up there, and we were ducking wires, thinking they were lower. What an experience for the seniors, the coaches, for everybody.”
Well, on Sunday, the team gave back to Northfield/Bernardston first responders with a cookout held at the Bernardston Fire Department. The idea was hatched by Wilson, who took over at the helm of the team after Duprey retired from coaching following the Super Bowl victory in 2011. Wilson, who had previously been an assistant, was so struck by what the responders did for those three teams, that he wanted to set up a public thank you. The idea for a cookout was born, the plan being that the football team would chow down on hamburgers and hot dogs with the men and women who paraded them through town.
“It was not only to thank them for that but also for what they do on a daily basis,” he said. “And those parades, especially the years that we lost, it definitely softened the blow. And it didn’t matter that we lost. They felt like, ‘Those are our boys out there and we want to support them.’”
Wilson approached the Greenfield Applebee’s with the idea and got a receptive response.
“They loved the idea,” he said. “They welcomed it. They said, ‘What do you need to make it happen?’ I’m very thankful for them stepping up to the plate.”
Applebee’s donated hamburgers, hot dogs, buns and condiments for the event and on Sunday afternoon, an Applebee’s cook manned the large grill at the firehouse and cooked the food for the large gathering on hand. Northfield Mount Hermon School also chipped in for the event, donating the drinks.
The event ended with the players lining up to shake the hands of the first responders in what looked like an end-of-the-game handshake.
One other table set up at the event had four football helmets on it. The helmets featured the current New England Patriots logo, one of the old Patriot logos, a New York Giants helmet, and a New York Jets helmet. The team is raffling off the four helmets to raise money for the program. Wilson approached Stadium System Inc., which makes equipment for Pioneer, and the company donated the four NFL helmets to be raffled off.
Tickets for the raffle cost just a buck and can be purchased at the school, although the best way to see the helmets and purchase tickets will be to attend any of Pioneer’s home games this fall. The helmets will be on display at each game and the drawing will take place at the final home game of the regular season in late October.
I have remained in contact with Cassie Taylor, who I wrote about last spring as she prepared to run the Boston Marathon for the first time in her life to raise money for the Family Reach Foundation, which provided financial assistance and heartfelt support to families fighting cancer. Taylor was unable to finish the race that day after the tragedy that was the marathon bombing, having been stopped minutes from the finish line, but she organized a small gathering of people to finish the race later that month. It gained her national attention as she appeared on CNN to talk about it.
Taylor is again gearing up for the 118th Boston Marathon, which takes place on April 21, and she is again raising money for the Family Reach Foundation. Her foundraising can be found at www.crowdrise.com and if you click on the Boston Marathon link and then search “Taylor” in the box it will bring up Cassie’s page. She has currently raised $1,761 on that site. Last year she raised nearly $13,000 total in all of her fundraising ventures. She emailed me the other day asking me to thank everyone who donated last year and this year, and said that anyone wishing to learn more about her or her story from last year’s marathon should visit www.familyreach.org. There is a link to the Reach Athlete Profiles and Taylor’s is among the dozen or so athletes listed. It’s a wonderful story and worth a visit.
Finally, the People’s Pint in Greenfield won the Restaurant Challenge bowling trophy at Shelburne Falls Bowling Alley last week.
The tournament is hosted by the alley and features staff from local restaurants. Alden Booth led the team from the Pint with a total of 372 for the three games to help the Pint to a final score of 1,048. Village Restaurant in Shelburne Falls, the defending champ, came in second with 1,047. Other participating teams were the West End Pub, La Luncheonette, Country Pie Pizza, Mocha Mayas and the Brass Buckle.
“It’s nice to see another team win it, since the Village Restaurant has dominated this competition from the start,” Shelburne Falls Bowling Alley’s Joanne Gaulin said. “But the teams here in town have already vowed to bring the trophy back in the fall.”
Jason Butynski is a Greenfield native and Recorder sportswriter. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.