The official kickoff picnic for the 49th annual Ken Lantzy Finest 40 Football Game took place on Sunday afternoon as players, coaches, committee and family members gathered at Peoples Natural Gas Park.

Head coaches for this year’s event, set for 7 p.m. Friday at Greater Johnstown High School’s Trojan Stadium, are Kevin Marabito of United for the North squad and Shade’s Don Fyfe with the South.

Marabito and Fyfe were chosen by their fellow coaches in the Southern Alleghenies Football Coaches Association (SAFCA) for their respective team successes during the regular season.

The Lions (9-5) earned a berth in the District 6 Class A title game for the first time in 20 years while the Panthers (11-2) were a perfect 9-0 during the regular season and won the school’s first-ever District 5-A championship.

“This is twice as a head coach and Game 12 overall for me,” Marabito said about coaching in the Lantzy game. “I have a lot of experience and a lot of age now. I still like to do this and it’s still fun. I think it’s mostly just a matter of keeping things together. We’re pretty excited with the kids that we’ve got on our squad. Overall, we are rounded out pretty well.”

Fyfe, who was a quarterback at Chestnut Ridge and represented the Lions

30 years ago in the Ken Lantzy game, is serving as the head man for the first time. 

“I was an assistant three times before and that was fun and easy,” Fyfe joked. “Now, I’ve got to make the calls and the decisions. But this really is a great honor. I’ve been coaching a long time and to finally get to be the head coach really is exciting.”

United’s Joe Turek, who is headed to Lock Haven in the fall, is thrilled to get to play under Marabito to end his high school career.

“It should be an awesome experience to have Coach Marabito as my coach one last time,” said Turek, who is slated to play defensive line for the North. “The past four years, he’s probably the best coach that I’ve ever had, and he has been a great inspiration.”

For Shade’s Austin Mauger, it will be the last time to be on the gridiron.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime deal for any high school senior,” said Mauger, who will play linebacker for the South. “This will probably be the last time that I will ever play football in my life, and I expect it to be an amazing experience. Me and (Shade quarterback) Brady Fyfe have been best friends since we were young and Coach Fyfe has always been there.”

The North assistant coaches are Brett Marabito, son of the head coach, and Sean Mack of United, Roger Beitel and Scott Lewandowski of Ligonier Valley and Matt Falisec of Purchase Line.

Lewandowski will run the offense and Beitel will be the defensive coordinator. Mack will work with the secondary and Falisec with the offensive line. Brett Marabito will work with the quarterbacks and running backs.  

Fyfe will be assisted by Luke Mihelcic of Shade, Sam Zambanini and Pete Kuharchek of Conemaugh Township, Doug Paul of Berlin Brothersvalley and Ron Walters of Hollidaysburg.

Paul will coach the offensive line and Kuharchek will work with the wide receivers, Walters will be with the linebackers, Zambanini with the defensive line and Mihelcic will be with the secondary. Fyfe, who will coach quarterbacks and running backs, will be the offensive coordinator while Walters will be the overseer of the defense.

“I think that the great thing about this game is that kids will make friendships here that will last a lifetime,” Marabito said. “It also give those that are going off to college, the experience of playing with a different team than what they did their entire lives.” 

 

Cory Isenberg is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. She can be reached at (814) 532-5080.​ Follow her on Twitter @CoryIsenbergTD.