Early on Saturday morning, Mr. Boulanger packed his car and traveled from his home in New Jersey to the football field at Kickemuit Middle School to relive his glory days as a gridiron warrior.
“It took me three-and-a-half hours to get here,” said Mr. Boulanger, who graduated Warren High School in 1990. He played running back and linebacker for his high school football team.
Mr. Boulanger was one of nearly 100 former football players of Warren, Bristol and Mt. Hope high schools who converged on the middle school field for three games of flag football in the name of charity.
Hosted by the Warren-Bristol Gridiron Club, the first annual Alumni Football Tourney was, by all accounts, a great success, said event organizer Mark Rhynard.
“It was really great to see the turnout of players and people who came out to support us,” said Mr. Rhynard, who graduated in 1996 from Mt. Hope High School.
Warren and Bristol school districts regionalized following Mr. Rhynard’s sophomore year, which created Mt. Hope High School.
“Some of these guys I haven’t seen since we walked off the field from our last game,” he said. “The camaraderie we had then, it’s nice to reconnect. It’s a bond we’ve formed for life.”
Formed in 2008, the gridiron club raises money annually to fund various needs of the Bristol and Warren youth and high school football programs, such as uniforms and goal posts. To date, the club has raised more than $50,000.
“Our main goal is to give out two $1,000-scholarships to graduating seniors at Mt. Hope,” said Arthur Manuel, president of the gridiron club. Saturday’s fundraiser generated $2,200 for the club.
Rain fell on the field during the early part of the first game, which pitted 2002-2008 Husky alumni against 2009-2012 Husky alumni. The older generation took the win.
The game that followed brought East Bay legends back to the field: Warren Redskins vs. Bristol Colts, all graduating years.
“It’s go time,” said an enthusiastic Scott Kopecky, a 1990 graduate of Warren High School. “I’ve been waiting since 8:30 this morning for this.”
Kopecky served as his team’s captain on Saturday, but was a quarterback – the last under former head coach Pasquale “Doc” Abruzzi – when in high school.
Chico Andrade, a 1980 Warren High School graduate, donned the jersey of a former Redskin who died at the age of 16 – Eddie Boulanger.
“This game was dedicated to him,” said Mr. Andrade.
Mr. Andrade’s classmate and teammate Brian Cote, also laced up. Mr. Cote is currently the head football coach at Mt. Hope High School.
And though he couldn’t play anymore, 1971 Warren High School graduate Bill Estrella stood on the sidelines holding his grandson, Cole, and cheered on his former teammates. Estrella’s son, Tom Estrella, graduated from Mt. Hope in 2004, and was part of the winning alumni team of game one.
Jan Malik, 1974 Warren High School graduate, was all smiles when the scoreboard reflected a 20-0 win for the Redskins.
“We never got beat in high school by Bristol, and it looks like we’re not going to get beat again,” he said.
Despite coaching by Roland “Rollie” Rodriques, the former Bristol Colts couldn’t get a point.
“I do miss it,” said Mr. Rodrigues, who retired from coaching both Bristol and Mt. Hope football teams in 1995. “(These guys) are still the same, though.”
The Warren Redskins took home the Rollie-Abruzzi Cup, named after the two high schools’ former coaches, Mr. Rodrigues and Mr. Abruzzi, the latter of whom recently passed away.
Mt. Hope alumni from 1994 to 2001 took to the field following the second game, facing off against the younger 2002-2008 alumni. The winner, the 2002-2008 alumni, took home the Vendy Cup, named after the late former football coach Tom Vendituoli.
“It was a great game,” Mr. Rhynard said. “Great competition. I was blown away by the support we received and I can’t wait until next year.”
The gridiron club is set to host its next fundraiser, a golf tournament, this fall. The club is currently accepting sponsors for tee signs. Anyone interested can e-mail Mr. Rhynard at [email protected]