THOMSON - A bunch of guys with bald heads and loafers took on a group of players about to enter middle age in a flag football exhibition.
And still the stands were half-full with fans desperate for football.
Former Oakland Raiders punter and Thomson native Ray Guy prepares to put during a fund-raising scrimmage to benefit
Photo by Michael Holahan
Even though a team comprised of Thomson players from the 1960s and 70s playing against a squad of Bulldogs from the 80s and 90s was the only game in town Saturday night, the cheerleaders yelled and the air was filled with an excited buzz.
Apparently, the citizens of Thomson will take football any way they can get it.
Bulldog coach Luther Welsh said that's because players like NFL legend Ray Guy, who put on a punting exhibition as a fundraiser to the school's booster club Saturday, helped make Thomson a legitimate football force.
And turned generations of teams into one large extended family.
"The thing about (Saturday's festivities) is not so much the (old-timers') game," Welsh said. "It's a reunion. They come back, and a lot of them haven't seen each other for many years. It's great for them, just like when you go to a class reunion. It's a fraternity, and they don't ever forget it."
Guy also showed he hasn't forgotten how to punt. On Saturday the first true punter to be drafted into the NFL (a first-round pick by the Oakland Raiders in 1973) lofted kicks as long as 40 yards.
But Guy, who still lives in Thomson, didn't don a jersey just to show what his 53-year-old legs can do. He did it for the same reason he's put on punting clinics around the country the past eight years - to help the community.
"The whole point of this deal was to help the booster club," said Guy, who played against his 25-year-old son, Ryan (Class of 1995), and who was flanked for the much of the night by his 13-year-old daughter, Amber. "And it gets the guys back together for a reunion."
Thomson junior fullback Antwone Johnson studied the predictably sloppy contest against a chain-link fence. While recording the game with a hand-held camcorder, Johnson thought into the future.
"This is very cool," Johnson said. "In 10 years, I'll be the one of the ones playing out there."
And chances are, there'll be bleachers full of fans to watch. Former coach Paul Leroy, who was the head of the Bulldogs from 1962-67, knows why.
"This," Leroy said, "is a great football town."
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