Friday, May 29, was supposed to be the night when the top senior football players in the Wyoming Valley Conference would get the chance to play one more game in front of the local fans.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICO elected to cancel the game, but at the same time wanted to find a way to honor the players who would have been selected to participate in the game.
A unique situation called for some unique decisions. With that said, the coaches from the conference decided to name every senior on their roster to the game. The teams were still split into the Miners and Pioneers.
“The coaches thought with it being such a hardship for some of them missing out on the end of basketball season and the spring sports it would be a nice way to honor them,” said attorney Bill Anzalone, the primary sponsor of the game. “With all the sacrifices these players made and the hardships they have gone through on and off the field, it was the right thing to do.”
Tunkhannock was scheduled to be a part of the Miners roster. They will be represented by all 10 of its seniors, Tyler Chesla, Alex Dailey, Brett Sickler, Alex Smith, Jake Frisco, Evan Sackmann, Jaxson Montross, Alec Seboe, Alec Walter, and Gavin D’Amato.
Alongside the Tigers would have been seniors from Lake-Lehman, Nanticoke, Valley West, Crestwood, Dallas, and Hazleton.
They were to face the Pioneers, made up of Wyoming Area, Pittston, Northwest, Hanover, Wilkes-Barre Area, Holy Redeemer, and Wyoming Seminary seniors.
“I am super proud of this group of seniors,” said Tunkhannock head coach Mike Marabell. “They will always be remembered as the group that turned this program around. They were more then just football players, but even better role models for the younger guys.”
The game would have been the 69th in UNICO history. The only other time the UNICO game had not been played was in 1972 because of Hurricane Agnes.
Anzalone said the plan is, as long as state restrictions are lifted, that he would like to get the players from both teams together later in the summer for a picnic where they will receive their official hat and jersey.
He also said the Miss UNICO pageant will still be held, but it will be at a later date in the summer. The monies traditionally raised from the game that are distributed to local charities also plan to be presented.
“We have a gift committee that gives out money every year,” Anzalone said. “We will be giving out the money to the charities. Everything is going on this year with the exception of the game.”
The Sponsor’s Award will be presented to the Class 3A state champion Wyoming Area Warriors, while Livia Moore from Holy Redeemer was selected as the winner of the Brian Piccolo Award. Moore played volleyball and basketball at Holy Redeemer.
Colleen McAleer also contributed this article.