The Panther Pit was lit up Saturday night, but instead of the young bucks of Franklin High School lining up, veteran players covered the field for the first ever alumni football game against Smoky Mountain High School.
Organized and promoted by Alumni Football USA, the rivalry match included players ranging from 1983 high school graduates to those who graduated just last June. The Battle of Cowee Mountain continued as Franklin High School defeated Smoky Mountain, 26-0, after four long, grueling 15 minute quarters.
“This was a great game with a great turn out,” said Michael Murphy, regional coordinator for the event. “The alumni from both teams gave it their all. Each alumni team was able to make some much needed funds for Franklin High School as well as the Smoky Mountain Youth Football Association. We were able to honor several former players from both schools to include slain North Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper and former member of the Smoky Mountain Football team Shawn Blanton.”
According to Jay Brooks, FHS Athletic Director, the Panthers received half of pre-sale tickets, which totaled a little less than $2,000. With the proceeds from concession stands, Brooks reported that FHS raised about $4,500. Of those funds, the FHS Dance Team raised $1,015 from ticket sales, reported Coach Jennifer Turner-Lynn.
The schools only received half of pre-sale tickets. Tickets sold at the gate on Saturday night went directly to the Alumni Football USA, as did the $100 entry fee that was charged per alumni football player who participated, giving the private organization nearly $30,000 from the game.
The game, which according to players, resulted in sheer exhaustion and more than a few bruises, was an overall fun and exciting opportunity. In addition to a fully stocked Franklin alumni football team, alumni cheerleaders took to the track to cheer on the Panthers. “We had a total of 41 cheerleaders on the track ranging in graduation years from 1987 to 2012,” said Turner-Lynn. “In all, 52 people responded in the affirmative to cheer, but with college finals and Christmas, that drove some of the numbers down.”
Turner-Lynn said she was grateful for the opportunity to raise additional funds for the dance team. “I feel like the event was really well organized, and I personally appreciate the opportunity that the dance team had to generate additional funds,” she said. “I know that the athletes that participated in cheering that night had a blast, and it gave them the unique opportunity to reconnect with old friends. Most of the groups even met on their own time to perfect stunts and cheers and plan on continuing to work throughout the year to be better prepared for the next alumni game. If we host the event next year, I would love to see us add a band and maybe even a special half-time performance. There is definitely room to grow this event and make it an annual showing.”
According to Murphy, Franklin alumni may not have to wait a full year to get back on the field. “The Franklin alumni are so excited they want to play another football game very soon and it looks as if they will get their wish and play a "Border War" against Rabun County Ga. in March 2013,” said Murphy. “The rematch between Franklin and Smoky Mountain is set for sometime next fall. Special thanks to FATZ restaurant of Franklin, Sports Zone, The Macon County News, The Franklin Press, and Snappy Lube of Sylva, N.C. We have really enjoyed working with both communities.”