Alumni teams to face off in “grudge match”

1991 Overton Mustangs

One of the most poignant facts of high school football is that it often goes by too quickly…  and when it’s over, it’s over forever.

Or is it?

With a 2 p.m. kickoff on Sunday, Jan. 27 Overton and Carlisle alumni teams will square off in Coach Chester Roy Stadium, for what organizers hope is an annual tradition. Practices are also currently ongoing at 3 p.m. every Sunday afternoon on the football field.

The Overton alumni team is coached by Ray Garrett (OHS ’96). Garrett, an all-state lineman for the Mustangs who later went on to Kilgore College, is currently the head coach of the East Texas Storm semi-pro football team. Garrett was adamant that the game is not just “a bunch of old guys reliving the past” but more about lending a hand for the future.

“A portion of the funds raised from this game will benefit the school district,” he said. “We’re strongly encouraging folks to buy them in advance, because the school gets more money from advance tickets than those bought at the gate.”

Tickets are $10 and Garrett said the players are currently selling them.

“But anyone who needs tickets can call me at (903) 522-2213,” he added.

Half of all tickets sold prior to game gets donated back to Overton ISD, and children age 10 and under get in free.

Matthew in 1994But it’s not all about the money, Garrett said.

“Games like this help build a stronger connection between the players of the past and the promising young athletes of the future […] we’ve got a great athletic tradition at Overton and I don’t think enough of the young guys are aware of it.”

The game is being organized by Alumni Football USA and the only qualification is that the participants have already finished high school and that they’ve been a student at the school they intend to play for.

A page on Facebook has also been set up called Carlisle vs. Overton Alumni Football Game for anyone wanting to see the evolving team roster, practice picks, or just to join in on the smack talk between these two Rusk County rivals.

On a personal note, I’ll admit this alumni game has been a strange experience for me.

I went from snickering and eye-rolling at it’s inception, to good-naturedly offering to lend my assistance with spreading the word, to half-heartedly agreeing to play (as a token bench-warming “mascot”), to suddenly feeling a desire to play for real and modifying my training regimen to stoke this fire, and now sensing the vague forgotten berserker mentality that I had long since put behind me.

Fighting HandsNow… I can’t wait for the game.

In idler moments on the phone at work, I’ll find myself doodling Xs and Os like I did in my younger days. My workouts have shifted starkly from low-impact cardio, to white-knuckle and black barbell grunting.

I’ve actually had dreams about it…  fitful dark visions of crouching low at outside linebacker, the hush from the crowd before the snap, sweeping around the end in a mad dash of bloodrushing hatred screaming, and plunging my helmeted forehead into the quarterback’s lumbar region. Standing over him, arms aloft in victory, and bellowing across the frozen tundra of the football field.

You can take football away from the boy but you can’t take the boy away from football. If you let it, it gets inside of you.

The growl may fade, hibernating quietly o’er the years, but it can return.

It has.

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