WHEELING - More than winning and losing, high school sports are about making friendships and memories that last a lifetime.
There were plenty of memories to go around at WesBanco Arena's Health Plan Pavilion Monday as some of the area's former football greats gathered to reminisce and hear plans to honor them in July.
Since 2007, the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference has been rolling out the red carpet for former participants of what is now known as the Rudy Mumley OVAC All-Star Charity Football Classic.
OVAC FOOTBALL GAME — Sam Petrovich, left, and Jim Hanna, right, listen to Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Executive Secretary Tom Rataiczak gives his remarks during Monday’s luncheon at WesBanco Arena’s Health Plan Pavilion. Petrovich and Hanna represented Weir High School in the 1950 OVAC All-Star Game.
-- Rick Thorp
Those who played in the 1950-52 contests will be feted during the game, slated for a 7:15 p.m. kickoff on July 26 at Wheeling Island Stadium.
OVAC Executive Secretary Tom Rataiczak said the conference wants to honor former players on their 50th anniversary of playing in the game.
But for the last two years, the OVAC has been recognizing players in groups to help get caught up.
And what a two years it's been, according to Rataiczak.
''To see those guys reunited, to see the looks on their faces, to see them walk on the field with former teammates and be honored, it's just been great,'' he told the gathering.
The former players spent most of the meeting talking with each other, looking at mementos of seasons gone by and remembering a simpler time.
But as former Weir High standout Jim Hanna pointed out, just because the times were simpler, the game was still fierce.
''We used to play against Wheeling, Triadelphia, Moundsville and so on,'' said Hanna, who played in the 1950 contest. ''We always thought the OVAC was the toughest conference in the country.''
Hanna brought a scrapbook with him to the meeting. Inside it was plenty of photographs and newspaper accounts of his prep playing days, as well as other Red Riders greats.
Eleven of the 25 West Virginia players in the 1950 game were from Weirton, including Sam Petrovich, who played end alongside Hanna. Both men still live in Weirton.
''It started raining about 2 (p.m.) and by that night the field was a sea of mud,'' Hanna recalled about the 1950 game.
''We had two fumbles. One of them (Ohio) recovered in the end zone. And we had another fumble on the 20 and they drove it and beat us 14-0.''
Petrovich said he didn't remember much about the game, except he had a bum ankle that he had sprained in practice a few days earlier.
Hanna and Petrovich played on Weir's 1949 football team that won the West Virginia Class A championship. Hanna also starred later that school year on the Red Riders baseball squad that won the 1950 state crown.
Following graduation, Hanna and Petrovich made their way to the University of Kentucky, where former Weir standout and OVAC Hall of Famer Bob Gain had already made a name for himself.
The men were coached by legendary mentor Paul ''Bear'' Bryant.
''If you've seen the movie 'The Junction Boys,' all of that stuff about Bryant is true, very true,'' Hanna said.
''He didn't care for human beings body-wise, I'll tell you that,'' Petrovich added.
It's stories like Hanna's and Petrovich's that make bringing back former players special, noted Ron Miller, who spearheads the effort to track down the former players.
''This is the 1950s and I'm a part of the 1950s,'' Miller said. ''So these men are something special to me, too.''
Lou Adkins (Moundsville), Bob Barker (Union), Tom Coleman (Martins Ferry), Dick Davison (Steubenville), Albert Gaudio (Yorkville), Jerome Gresak (Union), Dino Hadkjis (Wheeling), Jim Hanna (Weir), Sonny Herzberg (Bellaire), Lewis Higgenbotham (St. Clairsville), Pete Kelley (Yorkville), Anello Liberati (Bellaire), Jim Lucas (Martins Ferry), Jack Merinar (Triadelphia), Vince Orban (Yorkville), Ralph Patrick (Weir), Sam Petrovich (Weir), Bob Pulice (Weir), Jim Ritchie (Warren Consolidated), Bill Robinette (Toronto), Harry Rocchio (Follansbee), Frank Underwood (Wintersville)
Bob Beattie (Steubenville), Martin Bogarad (Follansbee), Bob Bonar (Union), Frank Branson (Stan Chlon (Union), Jay Clark (Warwood), Earl Dunfee (Barnesville), Jim George (Smithfield), Larry Herdman (Toronto), Ken Hill (Moundsville), William Jones (Follansbee), John Kornetti (Smithfield), Bill Kosegi (Bridgeport), John Marshall (Mingo), Mel Martin (Weir), Vern McConnell (Toronto), Lou Muscaro (Weir), Vincent Rea (Follansbee), Bob Ritz (Warwood), Jim Rowing (Wellsburg), Tom Straus (Smithfield), Bernard Ticich (Weir), Ray Timko (Warren Consolidated), Stan Tsapis (Weir), Dick Valloric (St. John), Harold Yates (Bellaire)
Bob Boyer (Weir), Don Brinker (Bellaire), Denny Davis (Steub. Catholic), Frank Eaton (Triadelphia), Chuck Eliopulos (Adena), Andy Ferkol (Triadelphia), Jim Flaherty (St. John), Perry Jeter (Steubenville), George Jochum (Union), Monty Jones (Moundsville), Walt Kukura (Follansbee), Bob Laipple (Bridgeport), Gene Lamone (Wellsburg), Bob Leadbetter (Moundsville), Henry Liberati (Bellaire), Harry Miller (Wellsburg), George Ossman (Triadelphia), Alex Paul (Warwood), Dick Pialet (Weir), Ray Ponita (Yorkville), Irving Platt (Wheeling), Ray Recinella (Mingo), Bill Ridgeway (Warren Consolidated), Don Rogerson (Follansbee), Ron Ruggieri (Steubenville), Billy Toth (St. John)
Al Bodo (Steubenville), Alex Bonomo (Mt. Pleasant), Harden Camiletti (Follansbee), Ben Cevola (Martins Ferry), Dick Chorovich (St. Clairsville), Dick Church (Bellaire), Don Cunard (Wheeling), Ed Doty (Wellsburg), Ron Duke (Bridgeport), Mel Eaton (Triadelphia), Jim Henthorn (Wheeling), Jim Hickman (Follansbee), John Holmes (Warren Consolidated), Larry Jeter (Steubenville), Paul Mikanik (Follansbee), Carl Norman (Triadelphia), Mike Pascuzzi (Follansbee), Herb Peddicord (Barnesville), George Rykowski (St. John), Jack Saunders (Shadyside), Lou Swabado (Dillonvale), Harry Sweeney (Triadelphia), Ray Welch (Moundsville), Gene Yost (Adena).
Wilson Adams Jr. (Bridgeport), Stanley Barezinsky (Follansbee), Jim Bittengle (Shadyside), Robert Bringman (Wheeling), Les Carney (Wintersville), Don Chadwick (East Liverpool), Lloyd Deuley (Wellsburg), Jim Dodge (Triadelphia), Steve Drazich (Wintersville), Ed Frohnapfel (St. John), Ernie Galloway (Warwood), Joe Gaudio (Yorkville), Art Gheen (Warwood), Frank Gilliam (Steubenville), David Hercules (Wellsburg), Tom Jenkins (East Liverpool), Jim Knight (Moundsville), Don Mayles (Warwood), Bob Munjas (Bellaire), Jim Novel (Moundsville), Don Oliveto (St. John), Bob Ray (Linsly), Charles Saksa (St. John), Ken Scherich (Wellsburg), Ken Sell (Wheeling Central), Tom Shively (Wheeling), Fred Steinman (Union), Hugh Stobbs (Linsly), Bill Thomas (Bellaire), Dick Tracy (Warwood), Floyd Trouten (Linsly), Ed Vincent (Steubenville), Sam West (Cadiz)
Norman Calissie (Wheeling), John Carroci (Mingo), Bill Collmar (St. John), Paul Donahie (Wheeling Central), Gene Froble (St. John), Charlie Hanlon (Barnesville), Jim Jochum (Wheeling Central), Harry Karanthasis (Martins Ferry), Paul Kramer (Union), Howard Linn (Steubenville), Bill Parlett (Cadiz), Gary Philabaum (Triadelphia), Eli Pilya (Steubenville), Allen Reick (Wheeling), John Simms (Moundsville), Jack Slenska (Dillonvale), Robert Yohn (Steubenville)