Ancient gridiron rivals battle in what many hope will become an annual tradition

More than 300 fans braved the elements on a cold and rainy evening to witness a bit of local gridiron history.

On Saturday night in the Maple City, ancient rivals Honesdale and Wallenpaupack Area squared off in what many hope will become an annual tradition: The Alumni Football Game.

The inaugural event was organized by “Alumni Football USA” and involved former Hornet and Buckhorn stars from as far back as 1978.

Robert Bishop, regional manager for Pennsylvania, told TWI Sports that he's been putting these games together for eight years.

All told, he's organized more than 240 alumni battles across the state.

This marked the first time Honesdale and Paupack have been involved.

However, judging from the overwhelmingly positive response from the two communities, it won't be the last.

Opening Salvos

The two teams traded possessions early in the first quarter before Honesdale broke the scoring ice.

Dan Patrisso got the Hornets on the board. The hard-nosed fullback bulled his way into the endzone from a yard out with 3:39 left in the period.

Kyle Schuman tacked on the first of his five PATs, giving the home team a 7-0 advantage.

Paupack appeared ready to retaliate on its next possession. Quarterback Walter Barnes completed a long pass to Mike Digilio deep in Hornet territory, but the play was called back due to a penalty.

The drive stalled there, so Honesdale took over near midfield and immediately embarked upon a second scoring march.

Tim Hart directed the advance, dissecting the Buckhorn secondary with pinpoint passes. The Red & Black quarterback hooked up with Alex Dieterich and Tyler Canfield on key completions before finding Jeremy Ebert for the TD.

Ebert, currently an assistant coach with the Honesdale varsity, made a highlight reel catch in the back corner of the endzone.

Schuman was true with another conversion attempt and, with :17 remaining in the first quarter Honesdale had a 14-0 lead.

The Hornets would push that lead to 28-0 before halftime, striking twice more in the second period.

Canfield did the honors next. Tyler hauled in a 28-yard touchdown pass from Hart midway through the stanza. Schuman's third PAT made it 21-0.

Honesdale closed out the first half scoring with one more tally. Hart called his own number this time, sprinting into the endzone from seven yards out.

Once again, Schuman split the uprights with his conversion try and the Hornets carried a 28-0 lead with them into the locker room at intermission.

Battling Back

To their undying credit, the Buckhorns refused to throw in the towel.

With Barnes under center and a couple of key halftime adjustments, the visitors battled back.

After Schuman made the score 31-0 by banging through a 29-yard field goal, Paupack mounted its first scoring drive of the evening.

Barnes dropped back to pass and spied Mike Durando running free in the secondary. Walter hit him in stride and the speedy wideout did the rest.

Sixty-eight yards later, Durando was in the endzone and Paupack was finally on the board.

A try for the two-point conversion was stuffed, making the score 31-6 late in the third quarter.

Paupack wasn't done, though, as Barnes struck again early in the fourth. Once again, the cannon-armed quarterback hooked up with Durando, this time from 17 yards away.

Moments later, Jeff Swanick tallied the two-point conversion, narrowing Honesdale's lead to 31-14 with 10:09 remaining in regulation.

Brendan Downey turned in a stellar all-round performance for the Bucks. The Class of 2012 tailback rushed for nearly 100 yards on the night.

Defensive Stars

While offense dominated this contest, several key defensive plays brought the crowd to its feet as well.

Honesdale's Craig Ciarrocchi killed off a Paupack drive with a second period interception.

The Hornets' Victor Rivero and Keegan Werner also picked off Barnes passes, while Mike Dieterich recovered a fumble.

For Paupack, Jovaugh Johnson led the defense with an interception late in the third quarter.

Emotional Moment

Without question, the most poignant moment of the game came late in the contest.

With time winding down and the game in hand, Coach Dave Hartung sent Mike Cook into the fray.

One of Honesdale's very first bona fide high school football stars, the Class of 1978 tailback has been battling health issues for some time. Nevertheless, “Cookie” sprinted onto the field and took his place in the Hornet huddle.

Moments later, the Red & Black line opened a gaping hole in Paupack's front seven, allowing Cook to power his way across the goal line. The crowd went wild as Mike celebrated in the same endzone he last visited 39 years ago.

Schuman closed out his night with his fifth extra point, making the final score 38-14.

The Rosters

Participating in the first-ever Honesdale/Paupack alumni football game...

•Hornets: Victor Rivero (Class of 2004), Tim Hart (2012), Jesus Rivero (2011), Nick Slish (1997), Alex Dieterich (2011), Don Michalek (1992), Chris Novoa (2005), Kyle Schuman (2003), Tyler Canfield (2015), Chad Schuman (2002), Daniel Patrisso (2000), Keegan Werner (2015), Eddie Seber (2001), Mike Cook (1978), Jim Watson Jr. (1994), Gary Steich (2001), Trevor Kowalczyk (2013), Joe Giannetti (1997), Mike Dieterich (2005), Daniel Schumann (2005), Joshua Denenberg (1992), Mark Wilmot (2005), Frank Savastano (2010), Walt Williams (1992), Michael Schwab (1978), Craig Ciarrocchi (2005), Justin Valinski (2010), Michael O'Rourke (1999), Jeremy Ebert (2003).

•Buckhorns: Scott Sullivan (2012), Walter Barnes (2001), Jovaughn Johnson (2009), Alex Popick (2013), Matt Krouse (2009), Joe Sullivan (2004), JW Swanick (1993), David McNunlty (1999), Vincent Martino (2014), Taylor Newcomer (2010), Victor Steffen (2012), Gary Meyers (2003), Kyle Kenthack (2001), Brendan Downey (2012), Ryan O'Kelly (2007), Joshua Derrick (1998), Brendan Ruddy (2007), Jason Gardepe (2009), John Moor (2001), Lee Carnegie (2003), Jeffrey Swanick (2001), Mike Durando (2013), Mike Digilio (2009), Niklaus Popick (2017).

 

Score by Quarters...

HON (1-0) 14 14 3 7 – 38

WAL (0-1) 0 0 6 8 – 14