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Pigskin Preview 2016

For a good cause

Coaches gather at Warren Hall of Fame's Pigskin Preview

By ERIC MURRAY Tribune Chronicle

Coaches Josh Franke, left, of Newton Falls and Nick Waggner of Champion talk at the Warren Sports Hall of Fame Pigskin Preview Sunday at DiLucia's Banquet Hall..

WARREN - The Warren Sports Hall of Fame hosted its annual Pigskin Preview on Sunday night, featuring held at DiLucia's in Warren, included dinner and a guest speaker. Charles "Chico" Wolbert, Sr., an executive board member for the Hall of Fame, said that the organization's general mission is to help those in need.

"Our general mission is to provide scholarships for needy kids (to attend) John F. Kennedy and Warren G. Harding," he explained.

"(We contribute to) different causes like the Guardian Angels. It's just a good thing that we can get all this money gathered up for these kids and to get people to know these coaches, and who exactly these coaches are."

At the event, local coaches were able to get together and discuss their teams with one another for the upcoming season. Coaches like Newton Falls' Josh Franke, Champion's Nick Wagner, Kennedy's Jeff Bayuk, Liberty's Chet Allen, Chalker's Bill Bohren and others were in attendance for the event.

For Franke, it was his first year at the event.

"I think it's awesome to be able to get all the coaches to come together, meet and eat some dinner," he said. "Just kind of have a bonding opportunity before the season gets started. It's a great opportunity for the community To hear about all their coaches talk about the team."

Some coaches, like Franke and Bohren, talked about the difficulties of trying to get kids to come out for the football team, as the area as a whole has experienced a drop in player turnout this year.

The guest speaker at the event, George Kearney, is a former Warren G. Harding football player and 1967 graduate. Kearney, who's coached at all levels from peewee to Professional football, offered one explanation For why there may be a smaller player Turnout.

"I think it's a double-edged sword, what I Call the soccer mom syndrome." Their kids Grew up and they were in little league and Soccer, and everybody played and they didn't Keep score," he said. "Then, all of a sudden, They're in high school. A lot of the parents, I really believe, think that's the way it Should be."

Kearney had plenty of interesting stories About his coaching experiences, as well as His playing days at Harding. In fact, he said that he sat the bench so much at Harding, That his nickname became "Your Honor."

However, Kearney said he had plenty of Great experiences as a former Warren Harding Panther, including a No. 1 vs No. 2 Matchup at Massillon, resulting in a Panther Loss. He also stressed how the community Treated football differently, back in his Playing days.

"Back then, (Harding) had 7,500 seasons Tickets," Kearney said. "It was ‘the show' on Friday night. Of course, there were a lot of high schools that are now playing football that didn't then. You know, Howland, Lakeview, etc. Niles always played on Saturday, So they'd come and watch us and us Would go watch them. It was different, yet, Very memorable."

As for his coaching days, while he's Coached with Don James, Nick Saban and Gary Pinkel at Kent State, not to mention, Head coaching opportunities in Europe, his Greatest coaching memories actually start With the youth level.

In 1969, as a young coach, he helped found The Howland Little Tigers peewee football Team, coaching them to a career record of 35- 5.

"Those kids were just great, they were like sponges. They would do anything that We asked of them, "Kearney said.

Kearney said that he was honored to be asked to speak at the event, as it was his first time attending, due to his busy coaching commitments in the past.

"It's very flattering and quite ego-inflating To be asked to be here," he said, laughing. "Football's the greatest game in the World. You learn lessons in this game, being tired, being hurt, teamwork, relying on guys next to you. (Lessons) that you don't get in the other games.

I hope the numbers reverse themselves and I hope it (football) comes back stronger and greater than ever."

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