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Warriors Challenge Panthers
Alumni Football Game set for May 29, 2004
by Harley Hawbaker
Every football person in the Big 30, Twin Tier, and Western New York region knows that Salamanca Football is in the upper echelon of gridiron tradition.  Their success on the varsity level led to the creation of an Alumni Game against the semi-pro Hornell Dragons in 2000 to raise money for new grandstands.
The Warriors beat Hornell that year, and then they beat another semi-pro team from Buffalo in 2001.  They defeated big ol' Bradford the past two years in what has now become an annual event for former Salamanca players, organized by D.J. Whitmore.
When I first heard about Salamanca wanting to play Portville in 2004, I was hanging out at Big Jim Hawbaker's Huntin' Lodge, talking football with former players from the Hawbaker clan.  Within days, an article on the game appeared in the Olean Times Herald.
Most of the Hawbakers had plenty of doubts about fielding a competitive team, but I could see the hunger in their eyes.  Sure enough, it looks like the game is a GO, and plenty of Portville gridiron greats are coming out of the woodwork.
Chris Yehl (1989 grad) is heading up the unit, and so far, there are over 30 dudes signed up to play.  Coach Swetland has agreed to lead the team if enough players are committed to practicing and executing his system and game plan.
Salamanca will be hosting the game at Warrior Field on a Saturday night, and this is an excellent opportunity for Portville to rise to the challenge.  If all goes well, this alumni football game could become an annual event to raise money, support the town's youth and high school programs, and provide great entertainment for the fans, players, and all involved.
This game will also be a unique opportunity for players of different eras to play on the same squad, representing their school and town...and putting on the pads once again for fun, charity, and to meet the challenge.  The contest will also create a unique opportunity for the coaching staff.  In one way, the alumni roster will have more of an "NFL-look" in terms of player ages.
It will be interesting to see how the Panthers will respond to this Warrior invitation.  Salamanca could have chosen a number of towns to play in this event, but they challenged Portville because of the natural rivalry that has developed between the two school programs over the past decade.
Special alumni football games have sprung up across the country in the past several years, especially in the South.  It will be a growing trend for a while, so this is a perfect time for Portville to get on the train and pump up Panther Football as a whole.

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