The crowds, which outnumbered most Friday night high school games, roared wildly in the arena as these brave alumni took the field.
No one knew what to expect as the players were no longer in the prime of their youth.
Shelby Lopez was ready to cheer, wearing shirts made for her and daughter Sophie, which stated “My daddy is No. 20.”
But as the clock ticked down, fans got more than they bargained for.
The Ore City Rebel Alumni football team consisted of 31 players from Classes of 1995 to 2013. Most are “Married with Children”, working “9 to 5” to provide for their “Full House”, because “Family Matters”.
Playing competitive football has been only a memory for most.
But thanks to Alumni Football USA and Coach Rockwell the game has once again become a reality.
After a short few weeks of practice, the game was on between the Ore City Rebels and the Union Grove Lions.
“Well, we destroyed Union Grove, 49-20. Most fun I’ve had in a long time!” Sean Darnold said.
There was no National Anthem or prayer before kick-off. Esteban Lopez did, however, post a beautiful prayer on Facebook prior to the game: “Dear Lord, We thank you for blessing us with another day of life and another chance to be under the lights. As we get ready to step on the field tonight, be with us and bring us together as brothers, as a team.”
Others in the community followed suit and let their prayers for the game be heard as well.
The team entered the field in unique fashion, parading through the stands, slapping hands, and getting the Rebel crowd on their feet and rowdy.
Shockingly, none of these “old men” entered on canes, walkers, or with oxygen tanks in tote.
Instead, Tracy “Stump” Edwards Jr. growled, “I am ready for some good hitting. . . . That first loud crack of helmets is gonna set me off. . . Either part off the steamroller or part of the pavement. . . .”
The game was played according to NCAA rules, with NCAA-licensed officials. And the players surprisingly looked like they were playing in a college bowl game.
Only one of the guys, Johnathan Harris, is actually playing now, for Sterling College.
Steven Rockwell recently graduated from Hardin-Simmons University, where he played running back.
Uvaldo “Bubba” Uvalle will be trying out for the Anderson County Roughnecks as a middle line-backer.
The Rockwell brothers, Geary and Kerry, both played on a semi-pro team a couple of years ago. Other alumni opted out of being on the team to not risk injury, as they are currently playing college ball.
Most of the team still lives locally. However, some did travel to make this game happen. Sean Darnold came all the way from New Mexico, Uvaldo Uvalle came from Palestine, Travis Moser and Mark Sessions from Texas A&M, driving in for practices and the game.
One fan, Jay Williams, drove eight hours to watch this game, and told the team, “you better be cracking some heads.”
All of the men played hard and showed they still have what it takes to play the game.
Some key players included Jon Bonnette, who made an amazing appearance throughout the night, including causing a safety, earning him the Defensive MVP title; Adon Saldierno and Sean Darnold, who scored touchdowns; Geary, Kerry and Steven Rockwell, who all made an impact on the score board with touchdowns, extra points and 2-point conversions, said Coach Rockwell.
One player, Steven Rockwell, made an impressive display in six different positions throughout the game.
He scored four touchdowns, a 2-point conversion, and an extra point. One of the touchdowns was so classic that ESPN has contacted him about putting it on the SportsCenter Top Plays of the Week! The footage is on YouTube.com.
If you missed out on this spectacle, you may still have a chance to see these guys take the field, as other schools in the area have also formed Alumni teams, including New Diana and Harleton.
The gauntlet has already been thrown by New Diana, but there has not been a date set as of now.
Following the game, players and fans alike were heard giving praise to Coach Rockwell for doing such a great job with this team.
Everyone was given ample play time, more than expected by some of the team.
Fans were heard saying they would’ve paid $15 to have seen this great game, and everyone was proud of support of the school, coaching staff and school board. This whole event was like a huge school reunion.
“The game was a positive uplifting atmosphere,” said Balinda Rockwell. It “felt like a church revival. God truly blessed this event and those involved.”
Geary “G-Rock” Rockwell, Jr. said it all: “I just want to thank all my teammates for such a wonderful time after last night. I feel like I got baptized in holy water, so just wanna thank y’all—the ones that were there, and the ones that didn’t play, because you did contribute to this team getting better.
“I’m a whole lot happier than I was, so thank Jesus Christ for the game and getting to play with a great group of men. I love all of ya, but start running when you heal up and get rested, guys. We got Diana next. Thank each and every one of ya and fans, too. Y’all had a big part of it; the ones that was there and not there. God bless you all and God bless the world.”