A local football classic will be adding some pep to its sidelines this year.
The 2019 Ken Lantzy All-Star Classic will feature cheerleading squads on both teams during the annual game, scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. Friday at Trojan Stadium at Greater Johnstown High School.
Ken Lantzy executive director Ralph DeMarco said the idea to add cheerleaders to the event came about a few years ago, following the success of incorporating a marching band with the football classic.
“All we hear is bad things about young people. They can’t catch a break,” DeMarco said. “We know that there are amazing young adults out there doing great things. You see it with our players on the field. You see it with our band members. Now we’re going to showcase these cheerleaders and show that there are young adults that have talents and are doing great things with their lives.
“Not every young person that comes down the road is doing negative things with their lives – we want to showcase that,” he said. “And we thought the more, the merrier.”
Nearly 40 area cheerleaders make up this year’s all-star squads, which are under the direction of several local high school cheer coaches.
“Ken Lantzy did have cheerleaders at one time, but not like a pure North or South squad,” DeMarco said. “So we said let’s do it. The goal was to get 20 and 20, so we got pretty close to our goal.”
The cheerleading squads, like the football teams, are filled with seniors who were nominated by their home school cheer coaches.
John Walker, of Bishop McCort Catholic High School, is one of the several area cheer coaches helping to lead the all-star squads.
Walker said there is plenty of excitement and enthusiasm surrounding what will be the last time for many of these area cheerleaders to cheer on their fellow athletes from the sidelines.
“This is the last event that they will be doing as a high school student,” Walker said. “Most of them have already graduated and are looking onto college, so this is a really good opportunity for them.”
Walker said the all-star event serves as a steppingstone for the graduates as they transition from high school into adulthood.
“A lot of them are really nervous about this next step in their lives because this is their security blanket,” he said, “so what we encouraged them today to do was go and meet someone else, go sit and have lunch with somebody else, try to get to know somebody else because that’s the life lesson that you’re going to take away from a program like this, where everybody is being brought in from different schools, different areas, different teams and different coaching philosophies.”
Walker noted that the “life lesson” also promotes camaraderie between the cheerleaders – even while cheering on opposing teams.
“We’ve been trying really hard not to make it a competition between the two sides. It’s really to support the young men that are on the field,” Walker said. “These kids are getting to know each other. They’re going to be doing some cheers and they’ll be going back to the traditional role of supporting the high school teams.”