With a second-round playoff battle against Southgate Anderson only 24 hours away, players received some unexpected motivation Thursday night.
Following practice, players gathered in the school cafeteria for a team dinner. Nine former Bears, representing six decades of Wyandotte football, surprised the teens with a guest appearance.
Each man briefly spoke, conveying the pride he still feels today from having played at Roosevelt, as well as providing inspiration and advice regarding the upcoming .
“Wearing the blue and gold is so important," 2009 graduate Kyle Timmis said. "It’s an amazing thing; it’s who you are. You’re going to have a wonderful opportunity (against Southgate) to have something to remember for the rest of your life.”
Wyandotte head coach Ron Adams said he invited the alumni to speak so his players could develop a stronger connection with the longstanding pride and tradition of the program.
“They should be grateful for the history and tradition of Wyandotte football,” Adams said.
Wally Merritt, a 1955 graduate, pointed out that he played alongside, and later coached, multiple generations of the same families who suited up for Roosevelt.
Dan Allman, a 1970 graduate, proudly wore his old varsity sweater Thursday night. He explained that each colored ring on his left sleeve represented his accomplishments at the time. He also recognized the Bears for what they accomplished in 2011.
“You guys have done a fantastic job,” Allman said to the . “I’d like to see you do a great job tomorrow and I know you will.”
Joe Alfano, who graduated in 1992, said the rivalry with Anderson is fierce, but Roosevelt players understand a need for discipline during the contest as well.
“There’s no love lost for Southgate,” Alfano said. “You’re going to play with passion, but you’re going to play with control. That’s just the way it is when you play Wyandotte football and you go against Southgate.”
Roosevelt graduates Ron Adkins (1993), Jeff Bowman (1992), Steve Pente (1984) and Mark Thorington (1984) also addressed the team.
Listening to the former players Thursday night was a moving experience, said senior receiver Edge Jelsemeno.
“It was very surprising,” Jelsemeno said. “It was real emotional and it was a real treat.”
Also among the alumni was 1965 graduate Gene Skidmore, who later spent 36 years as a football coach. For that, Skidmore was inducted into the Michigan High School Football Association Coaches Hall of Fame.
On Thursday night, he reminded the 2011 team of what a great opportunity it is to play for Wyandotte and of how much support they have behind them.
“You’re going to remember every game that you played and what a great honor it is to play for the Bears,” Skidmore said. “Just take it to the field tomorrow. You know we’re going to be there with you.”