Organizers held onto hope as long as they could.
But the fate of the 86th Scranton Lions Club Dream Game was inevitable.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the summer all-star football contest for graduated Lackawanna Football Conference players was officially canceled Friday for the first time in its history.
Five players from Lackawanna Trail were chosen to represent the Lions in the annual senior all-star football game: Nico Berrios, Josh Brown, Jeffery Resto, Mark Dunckle, and Richard Rodenbach were to be in uniform for the city squad.
“Everyone with the Lions Club tried to hold on as long as we could and really hoped to put on some sort of game, but unfortunately we are not able to do that this year,” co-chairperson Bill Dempsey said. “I played in the game myself and I know what it means to these kids and they have had so much taken away from them this year, so we really wanted to give them one last experience to play football, but we had to make this decision in the best interest of the safety for the players, coaches and fans.”
This year’s contest was scheduled for July 23 at John Henzes/Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Rosters for the City and County teams were announced in early May. Scranton Prep coach Terry Gallagher was scheduled to guide the City stars and Lakeland’s Dave Piwowarczyk had been selected to coach the County. They will keep those positions when the game is renewed next summer.
Players will still be honored with a jersey.
“While we are disappointed that we had to cancel this year’s game, we are delighted to honor the players who were selected for the County and City all-star rosters with a Dream Game jersey and we are also planning to showcase the players’ achievements and future goals in the near future,” Karl Pfeiffenberger, president of the Scranton Lions Club, said in a press release.
The Dream Game has been held since 1935 and raises money for the Lackawanna County Blind Association. It also bills itself as the longest continuous high school all-star game in the country.
Last season, 7,522 fans attended the game, which was won by the County, 14-7. The City leads the series, 42-39-4.
While the game has never been canceled in the past, it had battled weather-related delays, including in 2006 when it was postponed because of a heat wave where temperatures neared 100 degrees.
In 1976, the Dream Game was postponed twice because of rain.
“Certainly disappointed, but for the health and safety of the players and fans it was the right thing to do,” said Jerry Preschutti, the longtime player liaison who would have been a part of his 41st game. “I didn’t think we would have this game. It’s just not feasible. This game has endured.
“It’s going to be emotional not having it. I look forward to the brunch every year because I present my jersey. I tell the players, you are not just passing through this game. It means something and I insisted that we get them a jersey. And hopefully we can introduce these players at next year’s game and something like that would be special for them. The fact that these players were chosen is an honor for them.”